“I’ve been a personal trainer and a coach for over 10 years, and I loved it. I still love it, I’m still a coach and that’s a passion of mine, but I think my heart strings were pulled in a direction of how can I help people?” said Jomara Figueroa. That question ultimately led her to Seminole State College of Florida’s Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Associate in Science (A.S.) degree program.
“I enjoy treating people; that’s why I’m in this,” Figueroa said. “I want to see the progression, I want to see people get better, I want to see people strive for and achieve their goals.” Between her work experience and time in clinicals, Figueroa knows that the “soft skills” are essential to working with patients and achieving these goals. “I think we have to have a positive mindset before we start the physical part of things,” she said. Physical therapy assistants work with a wide variety of patients, each with their own issues, goals and behaviors. In her current clinical rotation, Figueroa is working with many children who either have physical disabilities or autism, so finding ways to communicate and get them to engage in the exercises is crucial to their success.
Figueroa and her classmates were not immune from the ripple effects that COVID-19 had on students. “We thought we’d be closed down for three weeks, and it ended up being five months,” Figueroa said. “We weren’t able to see each other for a couple months, but we kept each other encouraged and we kept each other going.” Like the rest of the College, they adjusted to remote courses for a time, relying on each other and their professors in what is usually a very hands-on program. “The professors, they don’t want us to just succeed as students, but in life in general and you can really feel that,” Figueroa said. Despite losing out on this time, they persevered and now in her clinicals she feels that she will have the confidence and the experience needed to enter the field.
I think if you really put your mind to anything, no matter what age, no matter what crazy things happen, you can accomplish it.Jomara Figueroa.
Her positive outlook and diligence have seen her through the program, the pandemic and losing two of her four jobs due to COVID-19 related issues. To Figueroa, her biggest accomplishment was continuing in the program through it all and being on track to graduate debt-free, showing that at 34 years old you are never too old to pursue your dreams.
“I think if you really put your mind to anything, no matter what your age, no matter what crazy things happen, you can accomplish it.”