Michelle is one of the hardest working young ladies you will ever meet. Her kindness, intelligence, and love for what she does at UCP-OC shines through her. Her story is a particularly interesting one as Michelle started as a volunteer, then became an intern, is currently a therapy aide, and through her work with UCP-OC, she is now ready to head off to graduate school to earn a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. That’s right, Michelle will one day be a physical therapist herself one day.

Even with her busy schedule, Michelle took the time to chat with us. Keep reading for some awesome insights into life at UCP-OC!

1) How did you find/start with UCP-OC?

I knew I wanted to go into the healthcare field and help people in some way. A friend suggested that I come with her to shadow at UCP-OC for a day and see the type of work being done I had never experienced the field of therapy before so it was a first for me. On the day I came to the therapy center, I was so amazed by everything I was seeing. It was really inspiring to see the therapists at work and to see how they worked with the kids. I was specifically drawn to physical therapy which led me to come back to UCP-OC during my second year of undergrad to volunteer. I went on to complete my internship here and was fortunate enough that they asked me to come on as a therapy aide.

2) What is your favorite memory at UCP-OC?

My favorite memory happened last month with one of the kiddos I get to work with. A few months ago, he received a new walker and had been practicing using it at home and at the therapy center. It was the day that he started moving the walker on his own rather than someone having to push it forward for him. He was taking steps in it. It was amazing to see such progress. It was also fun to see how so many people were there to support Jacoby. Therapists came over to see him as well the scheduling team and administration. Everyone cheered him on and clapped for him. As said by Moira, being able to witness that was an amazing gift.

3) How has UCP-OC impacted your life?

UCP-OC is the reason that I chose the field that I am going into. Before UCP-OC, I had no idea what I wanted to do. It has been such an amazing opportunity to work with UCP-OC over these past couple of years. It is a very unique experience because I have been able spend enough time here to see significant growth and development of the therapy center/organization overall as well as the incredible progress of the kids I get to work with. The center is like home to me as it has been where I myself have gone through significant life stages. UCP-OC has been there from the beginning. It was my first encounter with therapy and the first center that I volunteered in. It is where I have had the opportunity take the role of a volunteer, intern, and therapy aide. I have been here throughout my graduate school application process, and I am grateful to still be here now as I hear back from schools and prepare to go off to grad school. It means a lot to me to be able to share that with the therapists in the office, my fellow aides, and the volunteers.

4) What have you learned during your time at UCP-OC?

Most of what I have learned has come from the therapists themselves. The therapists at UCP-OC are absolutely amazing. It is obvious that they love what they do. I see them have so much fun and enthusiasm that it inspires me. I personally want to go into the field of pediatrics. UCP-OC was the place that sparked that desire and continuously reaffirms it. You learn patience, communication skills, and create relationships with the children and their families because therapy isn’t just about the exercises themselves. It is about how you interact with the kids and finding what is the best way to help them while catering to their individual needs.

5) Is there any part of your time at UCP-OC that makes you particularly proud?

I don’t think I can pinpoint it to any one time. It is more of a general feeling. When you are working with a child and they finally reach the goal you were working towards, the feeling is undescribable. You just feel like you want to cheer for them. You feel so proud of how far they’ve come and how much more the future has in store for them. It’s that feeling that makes me want to go into the field. The desire to positively impact another’s life and see them improve and succeed.

6) What is next for you?

I will be graduating from Chapman University in May with a degree in Kinesiology and minors in psychology and dance. After that, I plan to attend a Doctor of Physical Therapy program in the fall. I still haven’t decided where as I am still hearing back from schools. But until then, I will continue to work at UCP-OC!

7) What advice would you have to give new or potential volunteers/interns/aides?

Make the most out of your time at UCP-OC and be open to new experiences. Working with kids can be unpredictable but that is one of the things I love about my job. There are no days that have been the same. Be willing to be silly sometimes, to be excited to pop bubbles or to throw a ball. You have no idea how meaningful and impactful that can be for a child. If this is the field you have chosen, have fun with it. Yes, interning means getting those observation hours in for grad school but remember to enjoy the process along the way. It helps you to remember why you want to be in this field and who you are doing it for.

8) Anything else you would like to share:

Just a huge thank you to UCP and all the opportunities, love, and support they have given me 🙂

Congratulations, Michelle and we cannot wait to see what your next adventure will be.

Interested in volunteering? Click here for more opportunities!



Published by Life Without Limits: UCP of Orange County

The mission of UCP of Orange County is to help children with disabilities reach their full potential and improve the quality of life for their families.

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