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Alumni Perspectives and Stories

Meredith Payne Photo

April 2014

Over the course of a year, I worked at two outpatient hand clinics, one assisted living facility, and three skilled nursing facilities to gain experience and become adaptable and flexible in a variety of settings with many different therapists and patients. This prepared me for something very unique that my heart was set on. Currently, I am on my first assignment as a 'travel therapist' at the location of my choice, California. Basically, a travel therapist provides temporary help for a facility that needs short-term coverage. Not only do I have the opportunity to use my skill set and grow from learning in new environments, I am also getting to do something I love—travel. Occupational therapy offers so many different opportunities. Every therapist is bound to find an aspect of OT that fits them where they can thrive!

—Meredith Payne 12

Laurie Myers Photo

April 2014

It was a bit scary returning to college in my thirties, but deciding to enter Penn State Mont Alto’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program was one of the best decisions I ever made. The instructors are professional, knowledgeable, and caring. They want you to succeed as a student and, ultimately, as a COTA working in the field. The curriculum is extensive so that graduates will be well-prepared to enter the field of occupational therapy in any setting. My cohort felt more like a family, with everyone working together and supporting each other along the way -- a truly wonderful experience! Shortly after graduation, I accepted a COTA position in a skilled nursing  rehabilitation setting. I work with clients providing OT interventions following joint replacements/injuries, strokes, cardiac issues, surgeries, and illnesses; as well as clients requiring OT for pulmonary, diabetic, and wound care. I am so blessed that, through Occupational Therapy, I am able to make a difference in the lives of my clients every day. I am proud to be a graduate of Penn State Mont Alto’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program!               

Laurie Myers13

Chris Hepfer

July 2011

I graduated with an Associate Degree in Occupational Therapy from Penn State Mont Alto in 2009. The faculty members who taught the curriculum were excellent. They taught me not only the basics of the field but also gave me the professional skills needed to land an occupational therapy assistant job several weeks before I graduated. I work in the hospital setting helping individuals of all ages regain functional independence following strokes, orthopedic surgeries, or other acute occurrences. I enjoy my work on a daily basis and am proud to be a Penn State alumnus.

— Christopher Hepfer 09


Jill Elliot

July 2011

After completing this program and starting a career as an occupational therapist, I was surprised of the affect my education at Penn State Mont Alto had on my attitude and success in the field. The OTA program at Mont Alto was a great learning experience that thoroughly prepared me for my career in occupational therapy. Penn State Mont Alto was a great choice for my studies because it is a small community close to home with wonderful educators who have helped me reach my goal in life, which is to make a difference in other people’s lives. I am so thankful for my experiences at Penn State Mont Alto and encourage all to take part of this amazing program.

— Jillian Elliot 06


Ben Shank

June 2011

My experience at Mont Alto started out differently then most OTA students, because I transferred to Penn State from Hagerstown Community College. It was the best decision that I have ever made. From the very beginning of my OTA classes at Mont Alto, I felt accepted into a program that I knew nothing about—just like the rest of my class. I was one of two males in a class full of females so that was different from what I was used to in a regular classroom. I learned so much from the very beginning and was not afraid to speak out and ask questions when I didn't know something or couldn't find an answer. The best advice I can give to others is don't be afraid to ask questions because the instructors know what they are teaching and are willing to help you figure out an answer.The experience at Mont Alto allowed me to explore a wide variety of locations through fieldwork which led me to the career that I have now as a COTA at City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., working in acute care in an inpatient setting as well as outpatient rehabilitation where I work with client's with upper extremity injuries. So don't be afraid to follow your dreams and let Penn State Mont Alto be the place where they start.

— Ben Shank 10


Carol Shaffer

 June 2011

As an older student, Penn State Mont Alto was an energy boost—mentally, physically and spiritually. I remember thinking, "Am I making the right decision in going to college this late in my life?"  The OTA program at Penn State Mont Alto first taught me how to re-engage in a new life before learning how to engage others with disabilities. The faculty were knowledgeable, excellent with direct communication, and creative while also demonstrating lots of patience. Climbing the hills of Mont Alto is a journey and one that I will never forget.

—Carol Shaffer COTA/L CLT ’08