Prairie State Alumna Says 'Thank You' [07/13/2015]

Michelle Perry of Richton Park, Ill., originally wanted to pursue a career as an optometrist, and hoped to attend a four-year university after high school, but she and her parents could not afford the tuition. After careful consideration, she decided to attend Prairie State College (PSC) in Chicago Heights.

Michelle Perry“I felt I could receive a great, solid education while attaining my general credits and then transfer in order to save money,” said Perry.

She graduated from PSC in 2006 with an associate in science degree then transferred to Bethel University in St. Paul Minnesota, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology.

Perry said her experiences at PSC had taught her life lessons that would assist her in her journey through college and with the unexpected challenges she would face soon after graduation from Bethel University.

“PSC was a good first stepping stone for me to enter into adulthood in order to have the opportunity to become assertive and determine what direction I would like my life to take,” she said.

That direction changed in the summer of 2008. Shortly after graduating from Bethel University, Perry was seriously injured in a car accident, which caused her a great deal of pain and the inability to work effectively or participate in any physical activity. As a result, she began physical therapy (PT), and, after a few months, her pain had progressively gotten better. Going to PT and her experiences with the physical therapist inspired Perry to take on a new career path.

“I realized that people are in pain and can hardly stand, and I want to make difference in their lives,” said Perry. “I wanted to make an impact in the lives of other people, and do the best that I can to get them out of pain and back to whatever it is they truly enjoy doing in life,” she added.

Perry was always interested in the human body and muscles, but never pursued a kinesiology or biomechanical major in college because she did not have the best grades in her undergraduate program. She knew getting into PT school would be challenging.

Despite her doubts, Perry decided to pursue her goals. She attended the College of Saint Scholastica, and set herself apart by earning her Master of Science degree in exercise physiology. After completing her master’s, Perry was accepted into PT school at the University of Minnesota where she earned a doctorate in physical therapy.
Perry recently stopped by PSC to thank her professors for their persistence, for holding her accountable and for their role in her academic success.

“The professors and mentors I had at PSC challenged me to continue to apply myself and to ask a lot of questions. I have never been a straight-A student, and often became very frustrated because I would compare myself to my classmates,” said Perry. “With the encouragement of PSC faculty members Dr. Mohammad Salami, Marian Kelly, Dr. Nicholas Halm-Lutterodt and Dr. Christa Adam, I learned what perseverance and endurance truly means.”

Perry now is a practicing physical therapist in Phoenix, Ariz., at 360 Physical Therapy. Being a student at PSC influenced Perry beyond the classroom. She said the encouragement she received helped her throughout college and even in her current career.

“I have learned to continue to press on when I am faced with challenges, and to be assertive in the midst of those challenges,” she said. “To PSC students or prospective students: It takes humility, courage and boldness to enter into office hours, but it was during those times where I truly understood that my professors ‘had my back’ and would do whatever they could to help me gain understanding. Step up and grab the bull by the horns.”