Why I Pursed my Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy
It was a long road for Shenandoah College graduate Amber Kelly to obtain a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, and Burnett & Williams was honored to help her get over the last hurdle by assisting with the cost of her licensing exam. We all serve in different ways, but a life dedicated to helping elders recover from illness and stay independent is an especially noble pursuit. We wish Amber great success as she applies her skills to helping those in our community who need it most. Here’s the story of how Amber Kelly found her true calling:
It’s one o’clock in the afternoon, and as I wait to be let into the adult care center, I can already see Roger waving fromthe window. As I walk in to the center I am greeted by 15 familiar, smiling faces–this is the best part of my day. Joan in her wheelchair doesn’t ever speak, but gives me her famous smile. Next I hear Moe singing away to one of his favorite songs, stopping only to be reintroduced to me for the millionth time. Moe and his friends suffer from dementia; some have it better off than others, and all somehow find a way to continue to enjoy their lives, with the help of the workers and volunteers at the adult care center.
It was volunteering with people like Roger, Joan, and Moe that inspired me to pursue a career as an occupational therapist. As an OT we don’t ask you “What’s the matter with you?” we ask, “What matters to you?” We help people participate–through the use of every-day activities and across their lifespan–in the things they want and need to do. Occupational therapists enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest.
It wasn’t until I took my practicum at the adult center, as part of a class called Adult Years and Aging, that I began to have a better understanding of what it would mean to be an occupational therapist. On the first day of that course, my professor informed us that we would be visiting the Active Living Center just mile or two from campus, where each of us was to be partnered up with a congregate. I chose Carl, and over the semester we became very close. We talked about anything from our favorite sports teams to what we wanted out of life. He taught me a lot about myself, that there is more to life than just school, and that I needed to do something with my life that would make me happy. When he said that, I immediately thought to myself that I was pretty happy spending my time with him, and I started to think seriously about occupational therapy as a career. My short-term goal was to do well in my classes, but seeing Carl’s face light up when I visited every Thursday showed me what a difference I could make with this type of job, and the pieces started to fall into place.
When I first started my practicum at the adult care center in Winchester, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into–I simply thought that it might be a nice break from taking courses in a regular classroom setting. But my experience turned out to be so much more. Each person had a different story and background, and I loved getting to know each individual. Roger thought that he was part of the security detail so that’s why you could always find him sitting in the window watching over the center. Moe had never been married and was still searching for the one–you could find him serenading the new members or volunteers hoping to find love. I couldn’t believe that this little adult center in downtown Winchester had so much to character and so much to it. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was exactly what I wanted in my life: some sort of career where there was something new every day, where the learning never stops, and where I could really make a difference in people’s lives. Helping people relearn necessary life skills is more than just a job to me: it is a fulfilling career where I can grow and continue to learn as I help the people who have helped me realize my life goal.
–Amber Kelly, MS OT