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Sara Desmond ’21

Sara Desmond

Pre-OT Undergrad Learns Confidence Through Athletics, Academics

Sara Desmond ’21 knew she wanted to become an occupational therapist, and observing OTs working with students with autism confirmed her decision.

“Seeing the compassion and empathy that the therapist had for each child was admirable,” she reflected. She watched the therapists bond with students as they practiced writing their names and zipping their jackets. Sara helped set up activities and drew a basic design on paper so the students could practice cutting with scissors.

“It was rewarding to see the kids’ smiles on their faces when they were able to do a simple task,” Sara said.

Sara, a Middletown, Delaware native, is graduating from Immaculata University on Sunday with a bachelor’s in exercise science, concentrating on pre-occupational therapy, with minors in psychology and pre-physical therapy. In the fall she will begin her M.S. in occupational therapy at Delaware State University, which is acquiring the program from Wesley College. She looks forward to using her creativity to work with pediatric patients, either in a clinic or a school setting.

Sara was not always sure of what she wanted to do for her career. Some of her exercise science classes were challenging, and she wondered if that major was really the right one for her. But her parents and her professors encouraged her to stay on her path and develop some new learning strategies. Sara honed her note-taking and study skills, and she also learned to not dwell on mistakes but prepare for the next exam.

Playing defensive specialist on Immaculata’s women’s volleyball team also helped Sara strengthen these mental habits. She grew in confidence as a starter her freshman year, and she realized that the junior and senior players were not interested in calling her out for mistakes, but in helping her become a better player. Her coach urged her to let go of wondering what others were thinking and be confident in the decisions she made. Sara’s parents attended most of her games and cheered her on, helping her to relax her perfectionistic standards.

“As an intercollegiate athlete, Sara knows the rigors of balancing academics with outside factors, staying focused, and striving to reach her goals,” observed Kelly Stalker, Ed.D., exercise science professor.

When Sara was assigned to Stalker’s first-year seminar course as a mentor last year, she checked in with the students regularly, encouraged them to get involved and offered them additional assistance. Stalker praised Sara’s enthusiasm and positivity, writing in her graduate school recommendation letter, “I believe Sara’s personality will serve her well as an occupational therapist. She is caring and understanding, while also pushing individuals to be the best they can through motivation and inspiration.”

Equipped with deeper compassion and stronger confidence, Sara is ready to continue her studies to become an occupational therapist. “I’m so happy that I decided to go to Immaculata for college,” she said. “My professors helped me become who I am now.”

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