2020 INSPIRE Scholars

A big congratulations to class of 2022 Doctor of Physical Therapy students, Haley Hasty, Courtney Hersch and Kathleen Huffman for receiving the Interdisciplinary Related Services Personnel Preparation for Early Childhood (INSPIRE) program scholarship. INSPIRE scholars will be trained to treat children with high-intensity needs who have significant disabilities or multiple disabilities. These may include physical, cognitive, emotional, sensory or learning disabilities. Children with such needs are usually treated more frequently or for a longer duration of time, and their care may involve coordination among a large group of professionals.

Haley Hasty

Haley Hasty Photo

What motivated you to apply?

I have known that I wanted to pursue pediatric physical therapy ever since I started applying to physical therapy school. This program is an incredible opportunity to receive extra training in treating children with high-intensity needs and to collaborate with students from other disciplines. Hopefully INSPIRE will help jumpstart a career in pediatrics and help me become better equipped to serve children with disabilities and their families.

Have you worked with children before?

I worked as a para-educator in a preschool for four years prior to starting physical therapy school. I had the amazing opportunity to work one-on-one with three kids with special needs in their Extended School Year program, and then I substituted in the before-care and after-care programs during the regular school year. I also worked for the Skyhawks Sports Academy franchise and directed the “Mini-Hawks” and “Tiny Hawks” summer sports camps. I did some of my observation hours for physical therapy school at Unified Therapy, LLC in Connecticut, which is a clinic where children can receive physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

How did you become interested in pediatric physical therapy?

My experiences working in the preschool are what inspired me to pursue pediatric physical therapy. Working one-on-one with a child with disabilities every day for four weeks was challenging but incredibly rewarding and joyful. I got to witness firsthand the significant positive impact that early intervention services can make in a child’s life, and I want to become a part of this difference.

Courtney Hersch

Courtney Hersch photo

What are some of your expectations about the program?

I hope the program teaches how health professionals in complimentary fields can interact with one another to create well-rounded plans. I’m also excited to learn early intervention techniques designed to improve children’s quality of life! Finally, my hope is that we have opportunities to apply classroom knowledge to real life scenarios.

How did you become interested in pediatric physical therapy?

I’ve always loved working with children. Children bring me a lot of joy – I was always so happy when I volunteered and worked over the years at daycares, sleep-away camps, and programs. During my time at Kinetix Physical Therapy, my clinical instructor Dr. Rafael Cui let me demonstrate my ideas for fun exercises that we could use with his pediatric patients. He taught me that even as a professional, you can be creative and fun, all the while keeping the patient engaged and working towards goals that they had set.  After working with those patients, I knew that this was the path that I wanted to take.

Have you worked with children before?

In middle school, I volunteered at a day care facility working with children 2-3 years of age. In high school, I worked at the school’s daycare for children aged 3-5 years old of teachers and staff where I was able to create and implement lesson plans. Around this time, I started volunteering at Camp Jenny, a sleep-away camp held over Memorial Day weekend for inner-city Atlanta youths. During my university undergraduate years, I worked at Camp Coleman, a 2 month summer sleep away camp in Cleveland, Georgia. During DPT school, I volunteered at Children on the Go – a program dedicated to assisting children with disabilities to participate in recreational gymnastics.

Kathleen Huffman

Kathleen Huffman photo

What motivated you to apply?

Once I understood the field of early intervention physical therapy and my desire to work with children with disabilities, guidance to apply and work with this population largely came from my peers in the second-year class, as well as my professors. Listening and working with the second year SPT’s who are currently involved in the INSPIRE grant prompted me to focus on early intervention for my career. Also, on many occasions, Dr. Claudia Senesac shared stories of her times with children which helped me realize I was excited about the options this field offers and the rewards and joy it would bring.

Have you worked with children before?

During my whole life, I have sought jobs or experiences that have allowed me to work with children. From summer jobs of teaching swim, surf and marine biology lessons, to extra-curricular tutoring, I have been drawn to work with younger populations. Ironically, the majority of my shadowing hours prior to entering our program was centered around geriatrics physical therapy due to the settings offered by my undergraduate university. My experiences with the geriatric population helped me grow patience and flexibility within a therapy setting that can be directly applied when in pediatric settings as well.

If there’s anything else you would like to add, please do!

I am thankful to attend a university that offers so many varied opportunities in the field of therapy that allowed me to find the area where I can be most effective and to whom I am most dedicated. If you are in a position similar to mine in which you have no idea what path you would take as you start PT school, I encourage you to sample these opportunities offered in the various settings, because one of them might just spark some joy and make your path clear!