Grace College Exercise Science Students Head to Graduate School
How do you love an injured athlete? What is the best way to help someone through a painful fall, guide them through a slow recovery, or even counsel them through an identity crisis as she loses the ability to do what she loves most?
These are the questions that Hannah Harless and Allison Vroon are learning how to answer as they transition from Grace’s Exercise Science Program into graduate school. After a difficult application process, these students have been accepted into new universities in the midwest to dive deeper into their field.
According to Professor Christi Walters, director of the Exercise Science Program, Grace has prepared the students for the intensity and rigor of graduate school. During their time here, Harless and Vroon were challenged and encouraged by their professors and peers, molding them into the ambitious students that they are now.
“Grace has prepared me for this next step through being involved as an athlete and a coach, as well as the emphasis they put on education and making sure each student has what they need to succeed.”
In her first year, Vroon’s major was undecided. Then, she tore her ACL during soccer season, which required surgery and physical therapy. This sparked her interest in the human body. Vroon became very confident in her decision to major in exercise science as she enjoyed the small class sizes and close relationships with her professors.
Vroon graduated in 2019 and was hired as the graduate assistant of the Grace women’s soccer team–giving her a “gap year” to make sure graduate school was the way forward for her. After a year, the answer became clear–Vroon would continue her education. She was accepted into four graduate schools, and after prayerful consideration, this fall Allison will go to Grand Valley State University to study physical therapy. She hopes to work with injured athletes to heal and rehabilitate their bodies to their best possible function.
“I am very excited to get started. The graduate assistantship has prepared me for this new adventure by allowing me to continue learning and growing as I decided what path I wanted to take,” Vroon said.
Like Vroon, Harless has a heart for helping people. According to Harless, many who are physically struggling have a moment of realization that they can’t do the things they used to be able to do. Harless wants to walk with people through this and show them their true worth beyond their physical ability.
One of Harless’s biggest passions is working with individuals with special needs. When she was in kindergarten, she befriended a boy with autism. She would help him with school and find ways to connect with him. Over a decade later, Harless was overjoyed to reconnect with him when they ran into each other at a Subway. In addition to this experience, Harless’s three-year-old brother had a tumor removed from his spine when she was in elementary school. After the surgery, he had to relearn basic skills. This exposed Harless to the rehabilitation process at an early age.
When Harless graduates in May, she will be a Graduate Assistant at the University of Indiana where she will study occupational therapy. Her GA position will allow her to teach as she learns, and it will also help pay for her tuition. After she finishes school, Harless hopes to work in geriatrics or pediatrics.
“I want to show people that they’re more than a disease,” Harless said.
Helping people through times of physical and emotional crisis is not an easy job, but it’s one that these students have been prepared for. Now, as Harless and Vroon walk into the next part of their journeys, they take with them the ways of Grace.