Student Spotlight: Jessica Garcia
Hello! My name is Jessica Garcia and I am going into my senior year in the Bachelor of Health Science on the Pre-Occupational Therapy track with a minor in Disabilities in Society. Initially, going into my freshman year I had no idea what I wanted to study. I’ve always been interested in the health field and after a friend told me about Occupational Therapy I decided to do more research on it. I learned that the field is extremely diverse, but what stood out to me was the hands-on interactions with patients and the possibility of helping people reach their individual goals, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional. I believe reaching one’s full potential is crucial to having a better quality of life and being a part of that process sounds extremely rewarding to me.
One of my major involvements on campus is in a program called IFUS (Inclusive Fitness and Unified Sports). It is a community-based participatory research program that aims to increase the quality of life of students with intellectual disabilities and volunteers through exercise. I’ve been involved in it for five semesters as a volunteer and on the research committee. This upcoming fall I will be a research coordinator, pre-testing and post-testing the students to collect the data and track their progress from semester to semester. I am also involved in Best Buddies, an organization that fosters many friendships for people with disabilities in the Gainesville community by matching them with students to promote inclusion. Spending time with my Buddy has been an amazing experience and I have definitely grown as a person because of it. The interactions I’ve had with these individuals are unforgettable and I look forward to seeing their smiles next semester.
My cousin Andrea has had quite an impact on enhancing my love for the field as well (specifically my minor and my involvement with individuals with any kind of disability). She was diagnosed with Hadju Cheney Syndrome when she was 10, a rare genetic disorder that mainly affects bone tissue. I was very close with her but her disability caused many health problems. She passed away a couple months ago at the age of 17 and she will continue to inspire me to pursue this career and help give back to others in every way that I can. Experiences such as these have guided me in the field of therapy because I will get to work with so many diverse populations and share one-on-one connections.
So far, I have enjoyed all of the Pre-OT classes and I’m excited for the very applied and hands-on courses this upcoming semester. I will begin the application process to OT school soon and hope to continue my Masters here at UF. The opportunities I’ve had at UF are countless and they have helped me in pursuit of my life goals. In my free time I do enjoy being active and exercising, any outdoor adventure, and online shopping. My friends and family are the most important aspect of my life and they have supported me every step of the way. I would love to pass on any information I’ve gained from these experiences so if you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out!