Carrington Graduate Conquers Self-Doubt and Fear to Become Physical Therapist Assistant Program Valedictorian
Trish Wright was 43 years old and knew the time had come to make a change.
For 20 years, she had worked at a Boise, Idaho grocery store, serving customers in the floral department, the deli, and the store’s cheese island.
“Standing on a concrete floor for eight hours a day takes a toll, especially when you’ve been doing it nearly half your life” Wright says. “I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do for another 20 years until I retired. I really wanted a career where I felt like I was making a difference and helping other people. But I didn’t have any education or training, so I felt stuck.”
One day, Wright’s father-in-law, a pastor, mentioned that one of his church members had recently completed the Physical Therapist Assistant program at Carrington College.
“It was the second time in a year that someone had mentioned the PTA program at Carrington, so I decided maybe it was time to check it out and see if it was something I might like,” she recalls. “I visited the campus, sat in on a class, and decided it was something I would not only love, but could do well. After talking with my husband and kids and making sure everyone understood that I would be a lot less available for the next two years, I decided to go for it.”
What Wright accomplished in the ftwo years that followed is a master class in determination. In addition to working 16 to 32 hours a week at the grocery store, she conquered fear and insecurity to graduate with her associate’s degree in April—as the Physical Therapist Assistant program valedictorian.
“The past two years have been life-changing for me,” says Wright, the mother of four daughters. “For so many years, going to college was just never on my radar. Except for parent-teacher conferences, I hadn’t been in a classroom since I graduated high school 25 years earlier. Back then, college didn’t feel like an option. I married my husband right out of high school, started having kids, and went to work.”
Wright, now 45, says that as soon as she was accepted into the Physical Therapist Assistant program, she started second-guessing her decision.
“I was petrified,” she admits. “Some of the other students in the program were younger than my oldest daughter. I questioned whether I could focus and develop good study skills. The last thing I wanted was to be the old lady in class who couldn’t keep up. And when the teachers started talking about anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, my greatest hope was that they just wouldn’t call on me.”
As it turned out, Wright had little to worry about. Her strong organizational and time-management skills, along with a steadfast commitment to completing the program, served her well, even when a last-semester snag nearly jeopardized her April graduation. When the global coronavirus pandemic hit in March, Wright was three weeks into her eight-week clinical rotation at a skilled nursing facility. She was also working 16 hours a week at the grocery store. She was soon forced to make a tough decision.
“The facility where I was doing my clinical rotation told me that in order to reduce the risk to their patients, I would have to choose between my job at the grocery store and completing my clinical rotation with them,” she recalls. “On one hand, my job considered me an essential employee, I’d been there 22 years, and it paid. On the other, I didn’t want to lose my clinical and the hours I’d already invested.”
Wright eventually decided to take a leave of absence from the grocery store to finish her clinical.
“My husband works, so I was grateful to have options,” Wright says. “Fortunately, it wasn’t financially devastating, but we did lose the family health insurance we had through my job for two months. It was a very stressful time for everyone, but I was so close to completing my program that I just stayed focused on my goal. As it worked out, I was able to complete my hours and return to the store after three weeks.”
Now that Wright has graduated and passed the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), she plans to retire from the grocery store once she finds a job in her new profession. Her goal is to land a full-time position in a rehabilitation center and work with patients who are recovering from severe spinal or brain injuries.
“I’m optimistic and excited about starting a new career, which is something I couldn’t have said a few years ago,” she acknowledges. “I’m really proud of myself. I’m one of those people who tends to stay in her comfort zone. I’m so glad I pushed beyond it.”
Wright says that while her family and friends always believed in her, it took her a while to believe in herself.
“I may not have been the smartest student in our class, but I was the hardest working,” she says. “Failure was not an option. I saw the program as an investment in my future, and I didn’t want to mess up the opportunity. If someone had told me two years ago I’d end up being the program valedictorian, I wouldn’t have believed it. But here we are. In the end, my self-doubt helped fuel my desire to succeed.”