Wounded healer: Rehabilitation Services student takes circuitous route to collegiate success

Kate Richardson thrives in one-on-one interaction with stellar eye contact and observation skills.

Senior rehabilitation services student Kate Richardson has been in college for eight years and she’s hoping to make it 10. There have been many times she’s wished her degree had come faster, but she’s determined to leverage her path of struggle and persistence in a career that helps others.

“My goal in life has always been to make a difference in people’s lives and this seems the best way to do it,” said Richardson. “I want to do counseling because words are so important. They can hurt or they can heal.”

Richardson holds a 3.7 GPA and is without doubt one of the most engaged students in the program. With less than a year to graduate, she’s hoping to continue her studies at Wright State in the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program.

Richardson believes she is a wounded healer, “which is basically someone who’s been through the junk and come out the other side,” she said. The junk she’s dealt with has been substantial.

From a young age Richardson was a dedicated student and was determined to go to college. Though her family struggled, she knew if she did well in the classroom, she had a free ride in her home state of Indiana because of the Indy Scholars program, which she made a commitment to in the 8th grade.

Richardson is hoping to continue her studies at Wright State in the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program.

Basically they said, keep your nose clean, keep your grades up, graduate from an Indiana high school and we’ll pay for college at an Indiana public university,” said Richardson. “That was fine by me. I was extremely academically driven as a kid. I always loved school.”

Less than a year later her mother, whom she lived with, was killed in a traffic accident. The driver of the vehicle ran a red light and crashed into another car.

After the tragedy, Richardson had to make a choice—move in with her estranged father in Ohio and give up her Indy Scholars commitment, or make other arrangements to protect her future. She chose the latter and lived with friends, cousins and her grandparents for the rest of high school in an effort to maintain Indiana residency.

However, during the spring of her senior year, just as she was about to chooses a college, she learned her father had claimed her that year on his taxes. That made her a resident of Ohio.

“They told me I couldn’t have that scholarship anymore,” said Richardson. “I was crushed. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

Richardson’s resilience kicked in and her determination drove her to succeed in the Buckeye State. She began taking classes a couple at a time at Sinclair Community College while she worked. After several years at Sinclair, Richardson found her calling—occupational therapy. “It fit me well because I love medical, and I love people,” said Richardson.

In its simplest terms, occupational therapists and therapy assistants help people participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Occupational therapy professionals help children with disabilities participate fully in school and social situations, help people recovering from injury to regain skills and provide support for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes

But Richardson soon found out the waiting list for the program at Sinclair was three years long. She switched gears and enrolled at Wright State.

“My experience here has been so gratifying. In every class I feel like I’m at home. I just love learning about rehab stuff,” said Richardson. “My roommates laugh at me because I love doing any project for my classes. I hear about an assignment and I’m like: ‘Project!’ I get to learn!”

She’s still not quite sure which population she wants to work with most, but her indecision stems from a warm heart that just enjoys helping others so much.

“I enjoy working with kids; maybe the foster care system working with families and reunification?” she said. “But I also like working with people with disabilities. I like working with older people too, and college-aged people, so it’s just a hard choice for me.”

Whatever she settles on, there’s no doubt the community will benefit from her unwavering compassion and persistence.

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