100 Years, 100 Stories
The occupational therapy assistant (OTA) and physical therapy assistant (PTA) students volunteered for the event on the Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley campus as a service learning project. The event just so happened to fall on Sept. 11, which is also the National Day of Service and Remembrance.
The Corporation for National and Community Service urges people to engage in service and remembrance activities that meet vital community needs in honor of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I think it’s important for our students that we provide the opportunity to allow them to interact and engage and learn those important soft skills. This activity gives them the chance to closely work with seniors,” explained Lisa Koch, faculty and clinical coordinator for MCC’s OTA program.
About 80 residents of eight local nursing homes took part in activities ranging from hog calling and “cow milking” (using wooden cows) to ball tosses and wheelchair races.
The annual event is presented by the Missouri Health Care Association, a group that includes care facilities and people who work in the industry. This was the second year MCC-Penn Valley has hosted the event.
The Games’ goal is “just to give a day out,” said Sharona Webb, an MHCA committee member. Residents can “get out of the facility and be active again.”
Besides all the competition, the nursing home residents enjoyed lunch and entertainment – barking “disc dogs” showing off their ability to catch Frisbees.
“I enjoyed seeing our students sitting down and talking with the residents. They listened to their stories and connected on a personal level,” said Amber Jenkins, the MCC coordinator of the OTA program. “It’s important that the students are exposed to our diverse community and get the opportunity to meet people with varied abilities.”
Tony Wang, a student in MCC’s PTA program, said the day was “a lot more lively” than he’d expected. By 2:30 p.m., as the event was winding down with presentation of prizes, Wang admitted to feeling a little tired.
Wang, who’s from St. Louis, is in his third of four semesters at MCC. He’ll spend the Spring 2016 semester completing two seven-week clinical experiences.
He’s already done a couple of two-week clinicals, one of which was at a skilled nursing facility. When he started at MCC, he thought he’d eventually like to work with athletes, but now he’d also consider working with older adults.
Either way, “the career path that we chose is to help people,” Wang said.
Jessica Welch, who plans to graduate in May with her associate of applied science degree, said “the experience was invaluable. I truly
loved it. I got the chance to work directly with seniors. They are heartwarming, funny, wise and they make you feel good. Working with people is why I chose this profession and today just validates my decision.”
Kendle Laycock spent a good portion of her day just talking to the residents. “Our instructors do an amazing job of showing us that we are working with people. Yes, science and medicine are a large part of our profession, but the faculty push us to understand people have needs and we should strive to connect and meet those needs.”
The OTA program is celebrating its 30th anniversary at MCC this academic year. The program is also celebrating a 100 percent passing rate. “All of our students from last semester passed their national credentialing exam on their first attempt and are now certified occupational therapy assistants,” Jenkins said. “Congratulations, Occupational Therapy Assistant Class of 2015.”