Good Evening, my name is Anne McFarland, as you have probably noticed, I am the “older” one in the class, but as I claim to be the oldest, I also claim to be the wisest. Whether or not that is true, I like to put those two adjectives together, then it doesn’t sound quite as bad!
I can tell you that this program was truly a challenge. In fact, I can honestly say it was more difficult than the Master’s degree I went through twenty years ago. Some people assume because this is an Associate’s degree, that it is not a difficult and challenging program but I am here to tell you differently! This is an extremely challenging and fast-paced program, which required sacrifice and hard work out of each and every one of these students. I think I can speak on behalf of the entire class when I say that they appreciate all the support that you all gave us during this time. To the parents, the boyfriends, girlfriends, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters, thank you for your support of us while we went through this program. I know many days it was challenging for you all as well!
I would like to take a few minutes and go back in time to 1977. I know, that does sound like a long time ago, and you’re thinking… this is going to take forever, but I promise I will be brief. In the summer of 1977, when I was twelve years old, my grandmother who lived with us had a stroke. Since my mother worked full time, it was my job to take care of her. The physical therapist would come to the house a few times a week and show me how to do the various exercises with my grandmother. From that moment on, I was hooked on the idea of being a physical therapist, however, my grade in chemistry was not so much. Who knew then that a D in 1982 in chemistry would hold up my progress and my dream of being in the field of physical therapy for more than 40 years? My senior year of high school I applied to Indiana State University to their PT program but I was denied because of my grade in Chemistry. My high school counsel even advised me to stay away from a degree in physical therapy and peruse a degree in communication. From that day forward, that chemistry class became my nemesis and it stood in my way of moving forward. We all have a nemesis in life… that certain something that has stopped us short of a goal, stopped us from doing what God’s plan is for us, that one thing preventing us from doing what we wished we had done.
Approximately 4 years ago, which was way before I ever thought about entering into this program, a friend of mine who had no idea I had an interest in physical therapy was working as a caregiver for a woman who had had a stroke. She knew I was physically active and she said I came to mind when trying to find someone to work with her stroke patient. This woman’s name was Ruth. Ruth was going to physical therapy 2 days a week to an outpatient clinic. I worked with her three days a week, but a few days a month I would join her at the clinic and the physical therapist would instruct me on which exercises to do with Ruth to help aid in her recovery.
After working with Ruth for a few months, the physical therapist asked me if I had ever considered getting into the field of physical therapy. I gave him my brief history of never being able to pass chemistry and I thought nothing more about it.
Later in the year, I decided to take a kinesiology class at Ohio Valley University thinking that may help me learn more about muscles and exercises in order to help Ruth. A few weeks into the class, my instructor asked me if I had ever considered getting into physical therapy. Well, in fact, I have, I told him, and I proceeded to tell him all the “reasons” why I had not. I would never be able to pass chemistry. How would I ever find the time? And the cost… surely that would be prohibitive. I told him I would think about it and went about my way.
As I was walking down the hall that same day, I picked up a free Parkersburg News and Sentinel paper from the rack in the hallway; to my amazement right there on the front page of the paper was “Washington State Community College offers West Virginia residents reciprocal tuition rates for Physical Therapy Assistant Program.” Hmm, if that was not a sign from God, I do not know what else would have been!
With only about 7 weeks before the deadline for application for the fall of 2016, I hurriedly put an application together, including the observation hours, the letters of recommendation, the whole nine yards and I brought it up and I presented it to Dr. Stengel. We sat down and as she was putting all the paperwork together, she said: “everything looks good here”… oh except this D in chemistry! There is no way we can admit you to the program with this D, she said. You will need to retake chemistry and get a C or better in order to be eligible for admittance into the program and she suggested I reapply the following year. There it was… my nemesis once again!
I left thinking maybe this was not what God’s plan was for me, and that maybe I was not supposed to be in this program.
Approximately a month later and two weeks before summer school was to begin, I received a call from Dr. Stengel. She said, “we would like to offer you admittance into the program this fall if you would be willing to take chemistry this summer.” Wow! That is great news I thought, No wait that is bad news, I have to pass with a C or better, and not only that, it is on an 8-week accelerated schedule. How was I going to pass that?
After some thought, I accepted the challenge and agreed to take the class. My first day of class I was like a deer in headlights. I had no idea what the instructor was talking about! Once again, I wanted to forget the whole idea, it was overwhelming, it was too much. I wanted to drop the class. I even called up here three times one day to drop the class but nobody answered the phone!
I resolved to the fact that what would be, would be. I drove up the next morning in a panic to take the first test. I was shocked when the test was returned that same day… 84%. Thank God, no one answered the phone that day and thank God I never quit! I ended up passing the chemistry class with a B and the following fall I was accepted into the program.
So this is a story of never giving up, a story about never being too late to do what you woulda, what you coulda, what you shoulda done. Instead, it is a story of I WILL, I CAN and I SHOULD! There is no time like the present to overcome your nemesis. We all have one, and I encourage you to start today to make a change and to conquer your nemesis.
As for my friend Ruth, she progressed fantastically with recovery from her stroke. Unfortunately, after working with her for two years, when I was halfway through this program, Ruth was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away last August. Ruth was one of my biggest supporters. She encouraged me to come back to school and continue on the path God had intended for me over 40 years ago. Without having had the opportunity to work with her I am sure I would not be graduating from this program this evening. In memory of Ruth, I have decided to start the Ruth A. Brightwell Memorial Scholarship here at Washington State Community College for future PTA students. Ruth helped me get started in the program, now I would like to help others finish it.
Thank you for to all those in attendance this evening and thank you to Dr. Dyani Stengel, Mrs. Emily Taylor and to all the fantastic instructors here at Washington State Community College PTA program. Keep up the good work! This truly is an awesome program!