Hey Class of 2022, Why Regis?

Interviews are right around the corner for prospective Regis DPT students, and current students and faculty could not be more excited to welcome them to our campus. We wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on just a few of the myriad of diverse reasons that our current students chose Regis. Some first-year students reflected on the major choice they made just one year ago. Radiating themes that seem to have drawn the class in include: obvious inclusiveness within the program, a unique emphasis on service to others, seemingly endless opportunities, and adventure in the beautiful state of Colorado. Meet some of our amazing students!

Brittney Galli

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Hey all! My name is Brittney, I am a Colorado native who knew I would miss the mountains WAY too much if I chose to attend grad school in another state. Luckily for me, Regis University offers one of the best DPT programs in the country complete with 3-4 different clinical opportunities, hands-on lab experiences, and a variety of different ways to get more involved in the community.  The core Jesuit values that Regis embodies really emphasize inclusiveness, justice, teamwork, and the importance of making the world a better place: these are all concepts that I hold dear to my heart, so I knew that Regis was exactly where I was meant to be.
I had a wonderful yet somewhat unique experience applying to Regis: I actually applied a total of THREE times before being accepted into the program. Throughout my journey, I had immense support from the admissions office on how to improve my application and set myself apart from other interviewees: with an excellent program comes an extremely competitive pool of applicants, so I kept improving and growing so that one day I would be among those accepted into the program.
All of the hard work and perseverance was COMPLETELY worth it: I am finally a member of the Regis DPT family and I would not want to be anywhere else! This program provides you all the support and tools you will need to succeed in whatever avenue you choose to pursue through a variety of intriguing coursework and a faculty who cares deeply about each and every individual in the program. Every day I am so excited to go to class and learn about how to become the best DPT I can possibly be all while still growing and improving as an individual. And in my spare time I am of course taking in all the beauty that Colorado has to offer.
Arianna Amendariz
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The interview process at Regis was my main drive to pursue my education here. The current students, faculty, and staff were all very welcoming and reassuring as to why we made it as far as we did–we all had the passion and desire to foster a positive difference in the community through physical therapy. The classes and professors continue to fuel that ambition every day.
Lena Parker 
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My name is Lena Parker and I am a first year SPT at Regis. My reason for choosing Regis University to receive my DPT degree is due to their strong value system. The Jesuit values of Regis University include cura personalis, doing more for others, and embracing a holistic approach. I had interviews at other schools that did not have an organized value system, and it absolutely made Regis stand out.
I was concerned at first because I am not a Jesuit, nor  have I ever practiced the Catholic faith. I was born and raised as a Shinnyo Buddhist. However, as I learned more about the Jesuit values, I found that they are broad and universal. Despite using language such as “God”, I could still deeply relate to and apply the Jesuit ideals. Another concern of mine was that the values were a facade and were not actually practiced by faculty and staff. During my first semester, I was relieved to see that the faculty regularly support the Jesuit values, without preaching them. I always feel supported physically and emotionally by the faculty. They emphasize community service as much as possible. We are always reflecting on our experiences to ensure that we as students can support ourselves, and therefore support our future patients.
Regis University is very accepting of people of all denominations, faiths, or lack of faith. I believe that these values are providing me with a unique and wholesome experience and shows that the school is not just trying to produce more robotic physical therapists. Regis truly cares about its students, and I am extremely glad that I chose this school to pursue my career goals.
Peter Lee 
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Regis stood out to me in my choices of DPT programs because I felt like Regis actively wanted me to be a part of their program. The general lack of responsiveness from programs during the application process can be discouraging, but Regis obviously placed value on their prospective students.
As an immigrant who came from a place that received assistance from all around the World in times of need, global health is important to me. I hope to one day be a patient-centered therapist who empowers diverse communities. Regis’s Global Health Pathway allows me to practice and serve with a global perspective; it played a big role in my decision to enroll.
Suzanne Peters
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I am an incredibly indecisive person. Therefore, I am thankful that Regis stood out so far above the other schools I was applying to, making this major life decision so easy. The highlights for me during my interview process included the abundance of opportunities and the personable attitudes of the students and staff on interview day and throughout my admissions process.
Opportunities at Regis include, but are by no means limited to, service learning, the Global Health Pathway, and many student government roles. Last year, I felt like I could see myself being apart of this intricate network of roles and growing opportunities. A year later, it has become a reality and I am so thankful! Anyone who is excited to be challenged and grow as a person, student, and a future clinician should pursue Regis.
Additionally, my personality meshed well with Regis students almost immediately both at interview day and a year later when I stepped into Claver Hall for the first time as an official student. The attitude here is friendly, helpful, and upbeat. I have found that the way the current students and staff interacted with us on interview day was direct and genuine, which to me is extremely important and reflective of the character here. Both the staff and students are true to themselves.
Lastly, you cannot beat this location! I am from the Midwest and have loved my move to Denver. It is so great to get out to the mountains every weekend and recharge. There are many new hobbies to explore here and there always seems to be a classmate who is an expert and is ready to help you learn. That’s why Regis!
@regis_dpt

Student Spotlight: Johnny Herrera discuses the APTA National Student Conclave

Name: Johnny Herrera, Class of 2021, Colorado APTA Core Ambassador in 2018-2019

Undergrad: Grand View University

Hometown: Santiago, Dominican Republic

Fun Fact: During my junior and senior years of high school I only had class on Saturdays

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A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of attending the National Student Conclave (NSC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For those of you who don’t know me, during my first year of PT school I was involved with the APTA through a position as the Colorado APTA Core Ambassador (feel free to contact me about what this position is!). I chose to attend this conference because it is the only conference that the APTA offers specifically for students, and it is also the only conference that is mainly put together by students. I believe NSC was put together as a conference where students vote for the upcoming term of Student Assembly Board of Directors (SABoD), and the students from the previous term hand over their positions. I figured I’m only a PT student once, so I might as well see what the APTA offers during a conference made for students. Most people viewed me as being nuts for leaving town during Halloween weekend, but when I look back on my time at the conference, I can truly say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Here are a few reasons why:

  • During my time as core ambassador, I worked under supervision of the SABoD. The SABoD is a board of current students from all over the country who serve every SPT/SPTA in the country and improve their interactions with the APTA. When I began this position as a first year student, it was daunting to think that I could have any sort of impact on other students. I had put the members of the SABoD on a pedestal for taking on such large roles within the APTA, and when I arrived at the NSC, I realized all of the members of the board during my term as Core Ambassador were there. Turns out, they’re a pretty cool group of humans. I had initially found myself intimidated because they were students who had these huge responsibilities and large platforms; but it turns out they were all just like any other student in PT school, just with a bit more responsibility. They are all broke college kids who study a ton, have doubts and fears about PT school and their futures, and love to have fun on the weekends with their friends. Being able to interact with them and get to know them personally was honestly refreshing. It was nice to see that those who had these high positions were no different than myself or any different than my current Regis classmates. They just had a passion for student involvement and they made sure to do something about it! I left having this renewed sense of ability to accomplish anything I really wanted to, and it was because of these amazing humans.
  • While reflecting about the NSC, I realized how similar it was to Regis DPT’s interview day. I know that for some, that day was super stressful, but for me, it was about getting to know people and further realizing why I wanted to join such an amazing profession. When I looked around at NSC, it was a huge melting pot of students from all around the country coming together to demonstrate their passion for PT and its future. It was so cool to hear about the amazing things that students all over the country are doing and how they’re making an impact within their communities.
  • People from all over the country recognize Regis, so when you tell them you go to school there, they WANT to talk to you. Selfishly, it was really cool to hear about how many students really wanted to go to Regis but didn’t get in (small pat on the back moment for getting in).
  • One of the talks was put together by Jimmy McKay, who is the CEO of the podcast “PT Pintcast”. For those of you who have never heard of it, definitely look into it and you might find some of our professors on previous episodes! The talk was a live podcast interview, where Jimmy interviewed Shante Cofield (AKA the Movement Maestro) and Josh D’Angelo (AKA founder of PT Day of Service) and then was interviewed by them. The point of the interviews was to share stories of how they used their passions to build what they now do for a living, and their stories ended by saying that all they had to do was ask. It sounds like such a simple thing, but when the worst thing that can be said to you after a question is “no”, then why not shoot for the stars? (I believe all 3 interviews are uploaded, so go listen to them for some motivation!) All weekend long, all 3 of these individuals were at some of the booths in the exhibit hall, so I got to meet them and have conversations with them. How often do you get to walk up to a stranger who you know has made a difference in the world of PT and just get to chat with them?!
  • Throughout the weekend, I was able to learn about a variety of travel companies, OP clinics, and residencies. I was even able to build rapport with specific clinic and residency directors, hopefully putting me in a good position in the future to pursue employment or a resident position within one of those companies if I choose to.
  • Lastly, the absurd amount of free stuff. Who doesn’t like soft t-shirts and pint glasses?!!
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The NSC Exhibit Hall

As exhausted (and possibly hungover) as I was during my drive back to Denver, there were so many good memories and great relationships built during that weekend. I hope I was able to give you some insight as to what these large conferences are all about. Last time I heard, NSC was going to be discontinued until the APTA found a better way of getting student involvement within the conference. That can change soon, so stay updated on NSC news, and if they decide to keep it rolling while you’re a student, I can promise you that the money and travel will be well worth it.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about anything or if you want to know more about APTA involvement! Can’t wait for everyone to experience this at CSM this year!

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Ira Gorman discusses healthcare policy and PT advocacy

Like most physical therapists, my passion for PT arose from the desire to empower people to achieve their greatest state of well-being and functional independence. However, as I progress in my education, I am learning that the simple goal of helping people can be far more complex in our convoluted healthcare system. Furthermore, if I want to truly serve society, I cannot simply treat individual patients. I must advocate for larger changes through public health.

To elucidate some of the confusion around healthcare,  Dr. Ira Gorman speaks today about the current healthcare system, the need for awareness and advocacy to advance public health policies, and recent changes in the practice of PT.

-Priya Subramanian, SPT- Regis University

Why We Chose Regis: Reflections From Current DPT Students

I interviewed at Regis roughly one year ago, and as I look back on that day, I realize my decision to accept my spot in the DPT Class of 2021 was an easy one.

I decided I wanted to pursue physical therapy when I was 18 years old. I spent over 200 hours in observation, determining the kind of PT I aspired to be. It was during that reflection that I began to understand how important my choice in schooling was. This was not because of job security or the ability to pass the NPTE – there were dozens of programs that would give me both. My priority was the environment in which I began to develop my clinical eyes, ears, and hands.

I feel that I would have received a great education at several other places. However, Regis offers so much more than competency. When I left my interview a year ago, I felt a strong sense of belonging. Not only did I feel encouraged, wanted, and supported, but I also felt inspired. The faculty and students in that room were people who I knew I wanted as my colleagues and friends, challenging me and supporting me to be more in every way. They were some of the proudest advocates for PT, wanting to push the profession to excel and improve community health in any way possible.

Although I have only been in school for one semester, I feel this sense of belonging intensify every day. School is often difficult and emotionally exhausting, but I have never felt more inspired by my surroundings than I have at Regis. I truly believe the quality of people this program attracts is its greatest strength. This unique community of support, empathy, thoughtfulness, intelligence, creativity, innovation, camaraderie, and compassion is one that I dream of replicating in my own professional practice.

But, I am only one person in this community. Below are some perspectives from current students.

— Priya Subramanian, 1st year student

Perspective from 1st year students

“One of the reasons I chose Regis was the school’s focus on reflection. I absolutely believe reflection is an important clinical tool, and Regis is the only school that I know of that weaves this value into their curriculum. Additionally, Regis has an extremely diverse faculty with individuals specializing in areas such as home health, wound care, and chronic pain. I was confident that if I attended Regis, I would have the tools and resources necessary to explore any and every facet of the physical therapy profession.

Looking back I am completely confident that I made the right decision. Never before have I been part of a such a collaborative and supportive learning community. My teachers and peers genuinely care about my success, and likewise I earnestly care about theirs.”– Sam Frowley

 

“When looking for PT schools, one quality that I was really looking for was a strong sense of community.  As soon as I interviewed at Regis, I could tell that the PT department had that community that I was looking for.  A year later, I couldn’t be happier with my decision.  The environment at Regis PT is one where everyone genuine helps each other to succeed to create well rounded professionals.  I’m lucky that I get to be part of such a great family, and can’t wait to see what future holds!”   — Quincy Williams

 

“’I’d probably say the reason I chose Regis was because of how they made us feel during interview day. Besides feeling welcome and at home, they made me feel like I could truly change the profession and put my stamp on it if that’s what I longed for. As of today, I’d say the greatest thing about Regis is the never ending support system that is around us. Faculty, staff, classmates, and even those from classes above us are always going out of their way to make sure we’re doing well and have all the resources we need to succeed and give our best every day. This truly makes you feel like family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”—Johnny Herrera

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1st year students at the Move Forward 5K!

Perspective from 2nd year students

“I wanted to come up with something other than “I chose Regis because of Interview Day,” since I’m sure so many others have that answer… but I couldn’t… because it’s the truth. I actually almost did not come to Regis University’s interview day because I had already been accepted to a couple of my top choices back home in California, and had always intended to stay in California. Fortunately, I decided to come because it allowed me to experience the amazing culture that both the faculty and students at Regis cultivate. I immediately felt this sense of closeness, of family, of caring, and of balance from the students at Regis that I had not felt at the other schools I had visited. In addition to expressing their excitement about the curriculum, the students here had so much to say about the time the spent outdoors, the friends they had made, and all the fun activities to do in Denver. Two years later, I am so glad I chose to come to Interview Day, because now I have the immense pleasure of sharing all those incredible experiences with the incoming classes.”          –Davis Ngo

 

“It was easy to choose Regis after interview day. I remember during the interview just feeling like I was being welcomed into a family I wanted to be a part of. The best part has been that this support has never stopped. I reach out to faculty when I need advice, and each and every time they have been there for me and my classmates. Our faculty support us with injuries we have ourselves and act as our PTs more often then I’d like to admit. I have more leadership training at Regis and am encouraged to be a knowledgeable but also a thoughtful and empathetic practitioner. So I chose Regis and I still choose regis because there is no place with better faculty, no place with more diverse opportunities, and no place that I would rather be to grow into a physical therapist.” –Erin Lemberger

 

“I chose Regis for PT school 2 years ago because I was interested in the global health pathway and was drawn to their Jesuit values and desire to care for the whole person. After meeting students and faculty at interview day, I was amazed at how welcomed and accepted I felt in this community. Now in my second year of the program, I feel even stronger that I made the right choice for PT school. I know I am receiving a well rounded education that will mold me into the competent, caring practitioner I wish to become.”–Rachel Garbrecht

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2nd year students after weeks of collecting dry needling data with Dr. Stephanie Albin, Dr. Larisa Hoffman, and Dr. Cameron MacDonald!

Perspective from 3rd year students

“In the middle of a snowstorm three years ago, I interviewed at Regis and knew that day I would come back in August for the beginning of a grueling but incredible three years. I loved the large class size and was in awe of all the revered faculty; so many knowledgeable people to learn from! Its reputation is strong and its standards for educating and practicing are held high. Of course, the proximity to the great outdoors sealed the deal. The physical skills of becoming a physical therapist are of course vital, but Regis is purposeful about teaching beyond this basis and digging into the invaluable ‘soft’ skills that allow us to find connection with patients and purpose in our practice. As I navigate through my final clinical rotation and see graduation on the horizon, I am more confident and ready to become a physical therapist than I ever foresaw. I can’t thank my past self enough for making the clearest choice in the midst of that snowstorm three years ago.” — Katherine Koch

“Three years ago I chose Regis because the values and philosophies the program upholds align so well with my own. Regis values service to others, a person-first philosophy, and a global perspective. From the get-go I could tell that I would further grow into the PT, and the person, that I wanted to be at this program. I truly believe that Regis is at the forefront of the evolution of patient-centered care in all respects. I know I made the right choice and feel incredibly fortunate to be Regis-educated.”    — Amber Bolen

“I chose Regis because it has high academic standards and maintains a community feel with its faculty and students. I went to Regis for undergrad and knew each faculty member cared immensely about the success of the students. Over the past three years I have continued to enjoy Regis’s community feel and have constantly felt support from everyone around me.” — Daniel Griego

2019

3rd year students at Regis DPT’s talent show!

Lessons Learned During the First Clinical Experience

Name: Kelsie Jordan, Class of 2019
Hometown: Portland, OR
Undergrad: Oregon State University
Fun Fact: I spent the summer of 2014 studying in Salamanca, Spain.
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When I tell people I was in California for my first clinical rotation, everyone’s minds seem to jump to the flashy big cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco. Sorry guys, I wasn’t lying on the beach or treating the movie stars; I was working more in the realm of Middle of Nowhere, CA in a small town called Orland. If you’ve ever driven to or from Oregon along I-5, you’ve probably driven right past it without ever even knowing it existed, as I actually have multiple times. I have lived in or near major cities all my life, so I had no idea what to expect from working in a rural setting. I was worried I was going to be bored, and that being away from everyone I know would make me lonely. But Orland, with its farmers, high school football, and Dollar General stores, turned out to be the best place I could have been for my first clinical.
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Welcome to Orland!

Here are just a few things I learned along the way:

Work schedules > school schedules

I’m not going to lie, clinicals are exhausting. Being on my feet all day, both literally and figuratively, drained the life out of me, especially in that first week. The good news is, I immediately discovered how great it is to come home at the end of a long, demanding day and have nothing–and I mean nothing–to worry about. After a year straight of exams, projects, and endless studying, I forgot how nice it was to have a mellow evening without feeling guilty about procrastinating. My clinical instructor (CI) once asked me what I generally do after work and I had to laugh; my nightly routine was pretty much eat dinner, drink an occasional glass of wine, and re-watch early episodes of Game of Thrones. Call me lazy, but I look at it as taking advantage of the free time I never get to have during school.

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Wine tasting in Sonoma!

It’s never easy, but it gets better

As barely a second year student going into this rotation, I was pretty much inexperienced in every sense of being a physical therapist. Even the skills I was most familiar with had a different feel to them when working with real patients instead of practicing on healthy classmates. Luckily, my CI was an amazing teacher. He did a great job of layering on responsibilities for me so I always felt challenged but never felt thrown into the deep end. After an observation-heavy first week, I was tasked with doing the subjective interview portion of every evaluation and taking over the exercises for a couple patients. At the time, that honestly made me nervous and it felt like a lot of independence. But fast forward to my final week: I had somewhere around 10 patients all to myself, I was flying solo on pretty much every lower extremity and back evaluation, I was completing all documentation, and I had discharged three of my patients. We had a packed 8-5 schedule and it was never easy because my CI always gave me more to do before I got fully comfortable. It was demanding, I made a lot of mistakes, and being challenged every day sometimes made me feel like I wasn’t improving or I shouldn’t still be struggling. But looking back at what was difficult for me in that very first week compared to what I was able to do by the end, it’s easy to see how much I learned and improved!

Confidence takes practice

I have always struggled with my outward displays of confidence in patient interactions because I get nervous and tend to doubt myself. I’ve always been told, “Fake it ‘til you make it,” but that’s a lot easier said than done; I guess I just don’t know how to fake confidence. Instead, my confidence builds gradually as I experience success and overcome challenges. And that’s exactly what happened during my clinical. From prescribing and teaching exercises on my own to completing several full evaluations in Spanish, I was definitely challenged, but I was also successful. Sure, I felt like I didn’t quite know what I was doing half the time, but I learned to not dwell on mistakes and to push myself out of my comfort zone. Most importantly, I gained confidence in my own knowledge and abilities, and I now feel more prepared to take on the rest of PT school. If there’s anything I learned from my clinical, it’s that I am capable of doing far more than I ever thought I was.

Solo adventures are good for the soul

I’m usually go go go from one thing to the next for fear of missing out on any fun, so being alone in a rural area was definitely a change of pace.  Although I was lucky enough to reunite with some college friends during trips to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, I actually probably spent more time alone over the six weeks of clinicals than I did throughout the entire first year of PT school. It allowed a lot of time for self-reflection I didn’t even realize I needed. I was itching to get out and explore, and my weekend adventures were definitely worth all the miles I put on my car: I took my first solo camping trip, discovered a National Park I had never even heard of, and hiked upwards of 35 miles by myself. Of course I missed my friends and my normal crew of camping/hiking buddies, but I learned how to embrace time alone without being lonely.

I enjoyed the opportunity to appreciate silence and just be.

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Support systems are necessary

As a class, we spend so much of our lives together throughout the year that, I have to admit, it was oddly nice to be away from everyone. No, I’m not saying I was sick of my classmates, but those 6+ weeks apart allowed me to actually miss my friends. And, although I already said I enjoyed my time alone, man did I miss them. When you go from sharing all of your time together to none of it, all while you’re being thrown into a new situation, there’s a lot to catch up on after just one day! I did my best to reach out to my friends here and there to see how their clinicals were going, and sometimes those check-ins turned into 2-hour phone conversations. Shout out to the two friends who kept up a group text with me every single day–we practically shared a play-by-play of our clinical experiences, from funny patient stories to weekend plans. Knowing everyone else was having similar challenges was reassuring, and receiving daily encouragement and sharing my accomplishments kept me excited to keep learning.


In a rural setting, a physical therapist needs to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, as my CI once told me. As a result, I got to see a little bit of everything. Sure, there were quite a few back, shoulder, and knee injuries, but I also did some detective work with more neural issues, and I got to observe several vertigo treatments as well. I absolutely loved being in Orland, not only for the varied learning experiences, but also for the people and the small town charm. I found out the correct way to pronounce almond is “am-end” (according to Northern California farmers), and I even joined in on the tradition of wearing blue on Fridays in support of the high school football team.

“You are enough!”

That’s what we were told in our final pre-clinical prep session over the summer, and it turns out it’s true! At first it was easy to think,“I’m just a student” and feel as though I had to run every thought and decision by my CI. However, as he let me become more independent, I realized even as a student, I really did have enough knowledge and skill to make a difference in patients’ lives all on my own. Now, when people ask me how my clinical went, I have nothing but good things to say. I was pushed into recognizing how much I was capable of, and humbled into realizing how much more I still have to learn. Although it was a short period of time, those six weeks were like a refresh button to help me overcome the burnout I had experienced after a year in the classroom, and allowed me to come back to Regis ready to keep expanding my knowledge base before I head back into the real world again.

 

Chris Lew Reflects on Working With 2017 Opus Prize Winner

What is the Opus Prize? 

The Opus Prize is an annual faith-based humanitarian award that is designed to recognize and celebrate those people bringing creative solutions to the world’s most difficult problems. The award partners with Catholic universities, although recipients can be of any faith (Excerpt from Crux.).

Mercy Sister Marilyn Lacey received the Opus Prize from Regis, the host for 2017. Chris Lew, 3rd year Regis DPT student, assisted in her work in Haiti for displaced women and children as an Opus Student Scholar. Here is his reflection about his experience in Haiti, initially published in the Jesuit Journal of Higher Education.

Name: Chris Lew, Class of 2018
Undergrad: University of Portland
Hometown: Eugene, OR
Fun Fact: I have a whistle reminiscent of various fairy tale soundtracks…or so I’m told.

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Throughout my life I’ve had many opportunities for international travel – from travel abroad to Granada and London, a Fulbright scholarship to Madrid, and a service-learning immersion trip to Nicaragua, I have always considered myself blessed to be able to travel the world, experience different cultures, and see the world from a different perspective. Nevertheless, my time performing a site assessment in Haiti at Mercy Beyond Borders (MBB) for the Opus Prize was a unique and eye-opening experience.

MBB was founded more than 30 years ago by Sister Marilyn with the vision that education, especially of women, is the key to overcoming the widespread corruption and poverty that has consumed Haiti and South Sudan. Through my research of the Opus Prize, I understood this site assessment was different from the typical trip to an underserved community. From the initial interview to the final trip preparations, it was made very clear that the purpose of these trips was not to do; rather, the intention was to be, to see, and to experience. It was this aspect of the Opus Prize that interested me most in the organization and its mission. There is a plethora of groups in developing and underserved areas that perform charity work such as building houses and providing medical goods and services. While this service work provides a certain degree of benefit to the community, I have always been somewhat hesitant of this type of altruism because it generally fails to provide long-term, sustainable change to an underlying societal problem. What happens when the volunteers leave and no one is left to provide the necessary medical services? What happens when a fire destroys a new house and there are no resources to build a new one? This traditional type of charity work seems to be a superficial bandage over a much deeper, wider wound.

This is where Opus is different.

The Opus Prize Foundation emphasizes six values that it seeks in the recipient of the Prize. The one that stands out to me most is Sustainable Change. Rather than focusing on a top-down, government-focused approach to solve global issues, Opus intentionally sponsors and supports organizations directed towards community development and cooperation. Opus understands that the resolution of profound societal problems and corruption is ultimately driven internally, not externally. As such, the Prize acknowledges individuals who are addressing the root of social issues and are striving for change that is pioneered locally.

With this in mind, I embarked on my site assessment trip to Haiti with a very different perspective and intention than my previous international travels. The first stop on our trip was in Ft. Lauderdale, FL , where we met Sr. Marilyn, who lives in California and operates MBB in both Haiti and South Sudan. She introduced us to her story and illuminated details of the work she does with MBB. Her work in Haiti revolves around empowerment and opportunity for girls and women. Extreme poverty and corruption of the educational system prevent most children from obtaining a basic education. Most primary schools are private and, as such, require tuition as well as uniforms and books. Many families cannot afford to send their children to school or can only afford to send one child. In the latter case, most families opt to send boys rather than girls because males typically have greater opportunity for success than females in Haiti. As a result, most girls in Haiti only receive up to a 1st or 2nd grade level education. Sr. Marilyn and MBB attempt to ameliorate this disparity by providing secondary school scholarships, leadership development opportunities, and a safe and supportive living environment for girls who demonstrate academic potential. Additionally, MBB provides vocational and literacy training for young adult mothers and older women to develop skills such as reading, writing, computer skills, and baking. These skills provide women with greater independence and self-sufficiency and can even allow them to earn money through both formal and informal work.

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The following morning we took a short early morning flight from Ft. Lauderdale and landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The contrast between our departure and arrival city–only a quick two-hour flight apart–was profound. Destitution was apparent on our short drive from the airport out of the city. Litter filled the streets and empty plots of land and stray animals ran largely unmonitored throughout the city. Sr. Marilyn explained that, due to political and financial reasons, much of the rubble from the 2010 earthquake was never adequately disposed of in many of the poorer areas of the capital. As a result, many parts of the city appear recently destroyed even though the earthquake was seven years ago.

Our initial stay in Port-au-Prince was short as our first destination was Gros Morne, about a five-hour drive north of the city. Gros Morne, a town of about 35,000 people, is the community that MBB primarily serves in Haiti. Following the earthquake in 2010, Sr. Marilyn noticed that many relief efforts developed in Port-au-Prince but much fewer resources made their way out of the city and into the more rural parts of the country. She understood that her vision for MBB in Haiti had its limitations and saw the most potential for change in a smaller community.

Our time spent in Gros Morne and the surrounding area was quick but powerful. To gain insight into the MBB’s operations and its community impact, we met with several partners and individuals associated with the organization. We were able to meet several of the girls who are a part of the educational program as well as their families and see the personal impact that MBB has on their lives and their future. We interviewed the principal of a primary school that hosts several of the MBB students; he had high praise for the organization, stating that many, if not all, of the students would be unable to afford their school dues if it wasn’t for the support of MBB. On our final day in Gros Morne we also met with Sr. Jackie, a missionary sister who has worked in Haiti for almost two decades. She provided insight into the corruption in the Haitian political and educational systems. She explained that the private school system is largely unregulated, meaning almost anyone can start a school. This inhibits children from receiving a high-quality education and prevents those students who have the potential to succeed academically from actually achieving success. Overall, these interviews and personal interactions further highlighted the need for an organization like MBB in Haiti.

Sr. Marilyn embodies the spirit of the Opus Prize and models many of the Opus values, including Sustainable Change, Faith, and a Life of Service. She understands that long-term transformation is driven from within, not purely from her work, and this is what directs her vision for MBB. Through empowerment and leadership training of the girls she sponsors, employment opportunities for the local people, and a conscious effort to have Haitian and South Sudanese representation on her Board of Directors, she demonstrates a continued commitment to sustainable change in these countries. A woman humble in both stature and personality, she demonstrates her love and passion for her work in Haiti and South Sudan through her relentless work. I was most impressed by her ability to understand the needs of the communities she works with, while also maintaining a realistic expectation of how many people one person and one organization such as MBB can effectively impact. Although her work may be relatively small in the scope of the vast corruption and poverty in Haiti and South Sudan, her heart is big, and it shines through in both her actions and words.

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Week Highlights:

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Third years defeated the first years in the co-ed flag football championship last night. It was a close game and everyone played their hardest! 

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Our newest addition to the Regis DPT program was featured on 9 News. Welcome, Nubbin! Read the article HERE.