RT Month Student Spotlight: Andrew Hairston

Name: Andrew Hairston, AIT, CASC
Degree: BS Recreational Therapy
What brought you to ECU? How did you find this degree? 
In 2021 I lost my leg after an accident and throughout my recovery I found a love for adaptive sports. I began a nonprofit helping others get involved in adaptive sports, and after I retired from the Marine Corps decided to pursue the Recreational Therapy degree to provide services to communities lacking RT resources such as my home, the US Virgin Islands. The majority of my RTs throughout my recovery are alumna of ECU’s Recreational Therapy program, and with it being an hour away from where I live it was the best choice for me.
Tell us about your hobbies and involvement at ECU?
I am currently a professional cyclist for the US Virgin Islands and compete on the international para-cycling circuit in the handcycle classification. I just started off this year ranked #12 in the world after competing in Australia, and will be competing in Europe this May to earn my spot at the Paris 2024 Paralympics.
What is your favorite aspect of Recreational Therapy?
Fun! Seriously though, throughout a patient’s recovery process or development there is a huge emphasis on the physical aspect, the mental and emotional aspects tend to take a back seat to physical recovery and development. Recreational Therapy, speaking as a patient, was the one therapeutic session I looked forward to knowing that I will (typically) have a good time and still get better; being able to help a patient’s mental and emotional development while still addressing the physical is my favorite part of Recreational Therapy. And of course…ADAPTIVE SPORTS!
What kind of setting or future job do you hope to have upon graduation?
My hope is to continue to grow my nonprofit and what I am able to offer to participants. Since we currently work with the military, veterans, schools, and senior programs in both the Virgin Islands and Onslow County, I feel that this is the best of all worlds for me to bring adaptive sports to those who would otherwise not be able to try them.