Physical Therapy Graduate Students Give Back

By Emily Hung ’23, May 5, 2022

IC Me program serves Ithaca City School District’s underrepresented youth.

Students in Ithaca College’s Department of Physical Therapy launched a pilot program this academic year aimed at developing connections with youth in the Ithaca community and offering mentorship and support of their career goals.

In partnership with the Ithaca Youth Bureau’s College Discovery Program and Paul Schreurs Memorial Program, IC Me allows IC students the chance to mentor middle and high school students in the Ithaca City School District and highlight college opportunities in the STEM field.

The Youth Bureau’s two programs serve underrepresented youth in the community and are designed to reduce achievement gaps in the school district and increase access to college education for program participants.

IC Me holds monthly meetings with students at the Youth Bureau, featuring games and activities exposing them to different topics in health sciences, such as physical therapy, anatomy, and diaphragmatic breathing.

“Being able to give students at a young age exposure to physical therapy as a profession and highlight what paths it can open is really important because it opens more doors and gives them more resources.” 

Kaitlyn Sevilla ’22 co-founder of IC Me

Kaitlyn Sevilla ’22 is a co-founder of the program. She’s excited to get a chance to give back to the local community and share more about Ithaca College’s PT program.

“Being able to give students at a young age exposure to physical therapy as a profession and highlight what paths it can open is really important because it opens more doors and gives them more resources,” she said.

Students in the patient sim lab

Students got the chance to tour facilities such as the new Patient Simulation lab.

It’s an opportunity Sevilla wishes she had when she was younger.

Ally Galaraga ’23, a graduate physical therapy student and a leader of the program, says one of the high school students taking part the program expressed interest in attending Ithaca College and potentially pursuing a career in health sciences after his third session with IC Me.

“It’s those little moments that we have with them that really show how much the program can actually have an impact,” she said.

Another highlight of the program was when nearly two dozen students came to campus on April 21 for an in-person tour of the college’s School of Health Sciences and Human Performance (HSHP) and facilities such as the Patient Simulation lab, movement analysis lab and OT/PT clinic.

Kimber Kurr, clinical assistant professor in the PT Department, says the visit was a big hit with the younger students.

“Our students set up different activities to show them equipment and have them try what it’s like to use a wheelchair or crutches,” Kurr said. “I could see how much the younger kids really enjoyed the experience of being on campus and being exposed to different opportunities.”

Erika, a student in the Ithaca City School District, was in awe of the equipment available for IC students to use.

“IC clearly makes that a priority,” Erika said.

“One thing that’s really challenging with children who are in middle or high school is that they only know career opportunities that they’ve seen or have been exposed to. We know that some populations are underrepresented in a lot of the healthcare fields. We want to bring awareness of the options in the healthcare field and how they can take advantage of those.”

Kimber Kurr, clinical assistant professor of physical therapy

As the pilot program concludes, Kurr says they are looking for ways to improve and expand it going forward. One possibility is incorporating other departments at the college within the healthcare field, such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, athletic training, and the recently launched physician assistant program.

“One thing that’s really challenging with children who are in middle or high school is that they only know career opportunities that they’ve seen or have been exposed to,” Kurr said. “We know that some populations are underrepresented in a lot of the healthcare fields. We want to bring awareness of the options in the healthcare field and how they can take advantage of those.”

Sevilla says she believes the passion of physical therapy students can keep the program alive for years to come.

“One thing that is really important to me is to try to get more youth to understand what it means to be a physical therapist, and the impact they can have, so that hopefully they can go on and change the world,” she said.