17:51 PM

First-gen student says internship gave her hands-on experience, skills for career

Written by: Lauren Sawyer
Gonzales- photo- UHCL

College students benefit from internships because they develop professional skills and provide a greater door to opportunity. Internships may not always be a requirement to secure a job after graduation, employers consider candidates with internship experience when hiring. Lesly Gonzales is a University of Houston- Clear Lake senior obtaining a Bachelor’s in Fitness and Human Performance with a concentration in Pre-Physical and Pre-Occupational Therapy. She is currently interning at Agility Physical Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation to acquire 150 hours of hands-on training. She aspires to be a physical therapist and plans on attending physical therapy school after graduation this fall. She said that interning at Agility is giving her the confidence and clinical experience she needs for her future career.

“I’m getting the hands-on experience of what it takes to become a physical therapist. From learning different exercises and techniques that target certain muscle groups, to establishing relationships with patients, there is so much to gain,” Gonzales said. “The greatest thing I’ve witnessed through this internship is seeing the joy on a patient’s face when they’ve hit a milestone in their recovery.”

Gonzales’s supervisor at Agility, Caitlin Ownens, said she enjoys watching students grow confidence, learn, and make the most of their internship experience.

“I learn from the students, and how to work with people with different levels of experience and educational needs. Having interns is beneficial for me as a therapist,” she said. “It is helpful to have an extra pair of hands in terms of retrieving equipment, completing daily clinic duties, and assisting multiple patients with exercise.”

Owens said the goal is for students to not only gain confidence communicating with healthcare professionals and patients, but to also learn what the physical therapy profession entails and the difference it makes in a person’s life.

For some UH-Clear Lake degrees, such as Gonzales’s, an internship is required. Owens said students may reach out to her directly, then she coordinates an internship placement with their professor. When Agility has availability, they are happy to take UHCL students interested in the physical therapy profession.

Gonzales said her internship at Agility has been a great experience, and she’s grown a lot since she started with encouragement from her supervisors.

 “I’m so appreciative because I haven’t only learned from Dr. Owens, but all of the therapists at Agility,” she said. “I was shy and afraid to talk to patients in the beginning, but they all helped me build my confidence to where I felt at home. My questions were always welcomed, and my work was always appreciated,” Gonzales explained. “I will never forget the memories and knowledge I’ve gained as I further my career. Dr. Owens is a phenomenal therapist, and I hope to follow in her shoes.”

Gonzales said she didn’t know if she had what it took to be successful in her field. Being a first-generation college student with a learning disability, she had her doubts. She said she believed that she wasn’t smart enough to retain academic information at the same pace as other students, but her time at Agility and UHCL changed that.

 “The UHCL Accessibility Support Center has been very helpful and accommodating with my classes during my entire college experience. I am thankful for all the resources UHCL has provided its students,” she said.

Gonzales said she is also thankful for the courses she’s taken at UHCL. She said the combination of her internship and the courses, have prepared her for the transition to her professional career.

“The knowledge that I’ve gained in the classroom, I apply in my internship, and it all makes sense. As a first gen, it was hard to believe in myself because no one set the way. UHCL’s programs has left me speechless. My limitations didn’t determine my future,” she said.

Gonzales said she would like people to know that where they come from and what they have been through does not define them or their capability of being successful.

“Never sell yourself short, no matter what you face along the way. Never stray away from your goals,” she said.

For more information about UHCL’s Fitness and Human Performance programs visit, www.uhcl.edu/academics/degrees/fitness-human-performance-bs. For more information about UHCL internship opportunities for students, visit www.uhcl.edu/strategic-partnerships