• May 22, 2024

STC graduate represents the RGV in Washington D.C.

STC graduate represents the RGV in Washington D.C.

Empowered by the remarkable support received at South Texas College, spring 2024 graduate Aliyah Garcia was recently chosen to represent the Rio Grande Valley at the 2024 American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Capitol Hill Day, an advocacy event in Washington D.C.

Among a select group of licensed physical therapists from across the nation, Garcia was one of only two Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) students present at the event, having the opportunity to directly speak to congressman and senators about crucial reforms on behalf of the profession.

“This experience helped me realize the growth I have had since joining the program. I never thought I would have the courage to be this involved or have the knowledge to attend an event like this,” she reflected. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to advocate for our community on such a significant platform. It was both humbling and rewarding.”

Recognized as the top student from STC’s Physical Therapist Assistant graduating class of 2024, both academically and clinically, Garcia was also chosen as a recipient of the Texas Physical Therapy Association Coastal Bend District’s annual scholarship.

“While choosing a career, I had no idea about the path available toward becoming a PTA and the potential for a rewarding career right here in my hometown,” she said. “That’s why advocacy is crucial in physical therapy. Many are unaware of what it is, why it’s needed and the array of opportunities available within the field.”

As a devoted wife and stepmother of three, the 25-year-old’s path to her latest achievement of earning a PTA associate degree was paved with two years of sacrifices, which included commuting every day from Harlingen to McAllen.

However, her professional journey began to take shape in 2020, upon graduating from the University of Texas at the Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science.

“Growing up I was always interested in coaching and sports activities, I even competed in bodybuilding for a couple years,” she shared. “It wasn’t until my last year at UTRGV when I found my calling in helping patients through physical therapy.”

While in school, Garcia had been working at TruFit Athletics Club as a desk clerk and upon graduating was promoted to assistant fitness manager and, shortly after, to fitness manager.

Her promotion, coupled with a joyous engagement, encouraged Garcia to opt for staying close to home rather than pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy out of town.

“I found myself more excited about the personal training aspect of my job, focusing on the progress and well-being of my clients, rather than the sales part,” she explained. “I found STC’s program through a coworker who was already applying to it. Even though I already had a bachelor’s degree, I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to remain within the field, especially because it was affordable.”

Garcia began the PTA program in the fall of 2022, where her leadership skills were quickly recognized by her classmates, unanimously electing her as the class president of the STC Student Physical Therapist Assistant Club.

It was precisely this encouragement and sense of community that motivated her to become involved in various associations such as the Texas Student Physical Therapy Association, where she currently serves as a PTA delegate.

“I have gained so much from these experiences. I have had the opportunity to network with professionals from across the country and hear from various perspectives,” she said. “For our profession to continue evolving, it’s crucial that we raise our voices and actively engage. That has been one of the most significant lessons from this program.”

While awaiting the final step of taking her licensure exam this summer, Garcia expressed profound gratitude for her family’s unwavering support, which serves as her motivation to keep pushing forward.

“When you enter a health care program, it’s not just you who makes the commitment, but your family comes along for the journey as well,” she said. “My husband and stepchildren have made sacrifices, foregoing family trips, holidays, and leisure time, all so I could focus on my studies. It’s been a significant commitment for all of us, but I believe it’s worth it for a better future.”

Garcia now aims to explore various settings within the field of physical therapy, eager to gain experience and still aspires to pursue a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the friendships I’ve formed with my classmates and instructors. Our faculty isn’t just there to teach. They’re approachable, supportive and genuinely want to see us succeed,” she expressed. “Through my rotations, I’ve received a couple of job offers, and I’ve witnessed a significant demand for PTAs, which makes me excited to join the workforce. I’m optimistic. I believe that being a PTA will be incredibly fulfilling and if the time is right, I will pursue my doctorate in the future.”

For more information about the Physical Therapist Assistant program or other Nursing and Allied Health programs offered at STC, visit nah.southtexascollege.edu/ or call 956-872-3100.

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