RT Student Spotlight: Sarah Jones

Name: Sarah Jones
Degree & Graduation Year: B.S. Recreational Therapy, Class of 2023

Tell us about your hobbies and involvement at ECU? 

I am currently a Junior majoring in Recreational Therapy at East Carolina University. On campus, I am a Resident Advisor where I work to mentor incoming students and help them become more accommodated during their first year of college. I am also an active member of Best Buddies at ECU where I work to create one on one friendships with individuals with developmental disabilities and strive towards a more inclusive community and campus. In addition to being an active member of Best Buddies, I am also a member of ECU’s Recreational Therapy Student Society. As a member of this society, I collaborate with multiple populations in Greenville to practice the works of my major and volunteer in my community. In my free time, when I am not working towards my academics or volunteering, I work part-time as a counselor at Aquaventure Swim School where I pursue my greatest passion of working with children. 

What brought you to ECU?  

I came to ECU because the moment I stepped on campus it felt like home. ECU offered me the ability to grow as a student, professional and individual. It was a place where I could work to pursue my passions, challenge my mind, and explore who I wanted to be. ECU’s wide variety of majors, student societies, clubs, and diverse student body offered me the perfect opportunity to blossom. 

Why do you want to enter the field of recreational therapy?  

In all honesty, I hadn’t discovered the amazing world of RT until my senior year of high school. In my senior year, I took a class called student leadership. During this class, students were paired with individuals with varying intellectual and developmental disabilities. There were students who were non-verbal, high, and low functioning on the spectrum or were in wheelchairs. During this class, we spent the hour creating and modifying gym games with the sole focus of getting students active and having fun. Even if I had the worst day, being with those students lifted my spirits. Seeing them try something as simple as catching a ball or walking a full lap around the gym or simply smiling as I pushed their wheelchair outdoors made me fall in love with recreation. I loved encouraging people to do things others never expected them to do. I loved watching students’ moods change as they worked to gain confidence and strengthen their motor skills. When I discovered that there was a major that would allow me to pursue all my passions while helping individuals gain functional outcomes it was impossible to not fall into the world of RT. I love that RT is different and that there is never one clear path to wellness. I want to enter the world of RT because I truly believe I can make a difference. 

Tell us about your upcoming internship or where you hope to intern? 

I hope to intern somewhere where I can work with individuals with developmental disabilities or intellectual disabilities. Although I haven’t found an exact location, I am very interested in working with these specific populations. I first fell in love with RT when working with this group of individuals and I think it would be so special and symbolic to go back to what started it all. 

What is your favorite aspect of recreational therapy?  

I like that RT is for anyone. No matter the ability, disability, or inability there is always a way. RT is more than throwing a bottle of medicine at someone and expecting results. Instead, we are teaching them valuable skills that they can use to better themselves. It’s adaptable. It’s rewarding. 

I also like that RT is accessible in so many fields. Substance abuse centers, hospitals, you name it. RT takes things and activities and adapts them to pull out a functional outcome. I like that we can take so many things from the world and alter it and make it into a treatment plan and see results. I like that Rec Therapy is not all about the physical body but also about the mind. RT is holistic and is about helping people reach their new normal and feel like themselves again.  

I really feel that RT is the profession that you get into, and you never stop learning and I like that. I love that it’s constantly changing and that it’s person-centered. No matter the day it’s all about the client and their needs and discovering what lights their fire, helping them attain it, take it, and say, “This is mine.” 

Tell us about your favorite Rec Therapy course or professor(s)? 

I would have to say that my favorite professor at ECU, in the RT major is Dr. Loy. With Dr. Loy, nothing is ever easy and for that, I am so grateful. Every day in class Dr. Loy challenges me to think critically and teaches me how to think as not just a student but as a RT. Dr. Loy is all about adapting, thinking on your feet, and being the best at what you want to do. He teaches his classes in a way where I can retain the information, ask questions, and make mistakes. In my past semester at ECU, Dr. Loy has given me more knowledge about RT than I ever thought I needed. 

What kind of setting or future job do you hope to have upon graduation?  

I am interested in working with children with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, or children with behavioral issues. For as long as I can remember children have been my biggest passion. And I feel that working with those that do not get as much attention or that are written off by society is such a powerful thing. I feel that if I can get to them while they are young and teach them to be themselves and have fun and work on their skills that later in life, they will feel empowered. I’d be inspiring wellness and growth into them without them even knowing.  

If I did not get the opportunity to work with children, I think I would also be interested in working with veterans. RT started with veterans, so I feel that it would be a wonderful thing. My grandfather was a veteran and he passed away this past year. If I were to work with veterans, in some way that could be my chance to honor him. My grandfather was always the type of person to keep growing. He was a seventh-degree black belt and karate was so important to him. It was one of his biggest accomplishments and I truly believe his passion for activity, leisure, and focusing on the good is what allowed him to still be himself after serving in the war.  

I also have an interest in working with individuals dealing with mental health. I feel that there is a large stigma in mental health today and being in the field and treating clients could be my part in reversing it. 

Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your passion for rec therapy? 

In all the classes I’ve taken so far at ECU, I’ve learned so many things. However, the most important thing that I have learned is that you can’t teach passion. I spent the past three years taking the classes, trying to soak everything in and I still have so much to learn but I have the yearning to learn it. I have so much heart and I have decided that this is what I want to do and one day, as a CTRS I plan to give it my all. I feel that I have a lot of the characteristics that make a good RT. I’m compassionate, I’m a good thinker, I’m persistent, and above all, I truly want to see people be better.