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Tragedy gives way to physical therapy desire

Scholarship-pt600Derrick T. Yates is focused on attaining the skills of a physical therapist. It's no fluke or whim and he's about to take a major step forward.

This fall, the Central High School graduate will start pursuing a physical therapy degree at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He'll be aided by a $1,000 scholarship from the Methodist Healthcare Foundation, which annually supports a Central High School senior who decides to pursue a career in the health field. It's part of the Foundation's adopt-a-school partnership with Memphis City Schools.

The scholarship is linked to an essay competition. Derrick's winning essay described his inspiration to major in physical therapy after witnessing the importance of his god-brother's rehabilitation after a spinal and neck injury.

Here is his winning essay:

There is a famous Anatole France quote that reads, "To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe." I find this quote very interesting because there are four important statements within it: to act, to dream, to plan and to believe. It is not only my belief, but my dream that one day I will become a very successful physical therapist. It is my plan to seek a career in the healthcare industry by acting upon the opportunity to continue my education at the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville beginning the fall of 2012. Upon completion of the four-year program, I plan to attend a physical therapy school of my choice.

My desire to become the best physical therapist that I can be stems from a childhood tragic accident that occurred in Gulf Port, Miss. While on a family vacation. My god-brother, a water lover, and senior in high school dove into the shallow waters at the Gulf Shores beach. As a young kid, I watched him, as he laid face down, helpless and unable to move. My first thought was he was pretending as always, but he in fact was actually hurt. My brother, my friend and my playmate had a severe spine and neck injury that led to his paralysis. After several days of hospitalization in Gulf Port, he was airlifted to Le Bonheur Hospital where he underwent intense spinal surgery on his 18th birthday. After watching his life change in the split of a second, and not understanding how an unanticipated injury could hinder someone's daily life, I wanted to help him.

Although modern medicine and physicians played an intricate role in his recovery, it was the physical therapy that helped recoup the life that many of us take for granted. It isn't until we watch someone lose the ability to walk that we as humans realize the value of our body's ability to take us through each day. My god-brother's physical therapist was the person who stayed on top of him, making sure that he kept a positive outlook for the duration of the rehabilitation process. Although his condition is irreversible, his quality of life was enhanced because of his physical therapist that led him through the process of regaining physical strength and helped him regain control of his life. Physical therapy involves interaction with individuals. Physical therapy reaches beyond the workings of the human body, and it touches many people in more personal ways. My god-brother is still an inspiration to me, as he is paralyzed, but he reminds me that I can accomplish great things if I set goals and believe in myself.

I am interested in attending the University of Tennessee in Knoxville; I believe UTK has a variety of programs that will give me a greater opportunity of succeeding in my desired healthcare field of physical therapy. It is my desire to begin my educational journey by studying kinesiology, which is also known as human kinetics. Kinesiology is the scientific study of human movement, which is found within the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences curriculum.

I am currently a senior at Central High School, and have worked hard to maintain an above satisfactory grade point average. I am currently enrolled in two advanced placement classes, AP Calculus and AP Psychology. I am also enrolled in human anatomy and physiology. I thoroughly enjoy the study of the human body and its movements. I hold the distinguished honor of being a two-time recipient of the William H. Sweet Award. I believe I am an exceptional student.

I will be the first male of four generations to attend college. I believe that as an eager young man about to embark on a new life outside of high school, entering the healthcare field will help provide the foundation that is required to be that successful therapist I hope to one day become. In addition to the many educational requirements for physical therapists, there are other important attributes that are needed to be successful. I would like to expound on some qualities that I possess such as honest, intelligence and perseverance. In addition to those qualities, I also have good communication skills and the ability to get along well with others. These qualities are essential to my success in reaching my goals.

A career as a physical therapist requires a lot of studied skills, personal characteristics and physical fitness. I believed that a physical therapist should enjoy working with people and helping others. I also believe that they should possess the ability to listen to patients and understand the importance of their physical goals. As I noted above, my god-brother was the victim of a traumatic experience, and I watched his sadness disappear because of the support he received from family and from his therapist. As a kid on the sideline, I knew what I wanted to do. I understood the importance of helping those who sometimes could not help themselves. This career sparked my curiosity and has held my attention for a long time.

Physical therapy is a growing and changing field in the health care industry. Sport therapy is a very big part of physical therapy, which focuses on sport-related injuries or surgeries. As an active varsity baseball player for Central High School, this area of physical therapy is of interest to me as well.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states, "Employment of physical therapists is expected to grow by 30 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster that the average for all occupations." (U.S. Dept. of Labor)

I have also read many articles on the opportunities for specialty certification and how they are increasing daily. Many physical therapists choose to concentrate on specific types of injuries, but it is my goal to become knowledgeable in as many areas as possible. Keeping this in mind, I understand that I must not only act, but follow my dreams, by planning my educational journey and believing in myself.

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