August 23, 2022

Alumni Spotlight: Meet Eva Burkart

By B&SC Blog Team

Alumni Spotlight: Meet Eva Burkart

Alumni Spotlight: Meet Eva Burkart

Program: Occupational Therapy Assistant

Campus: Wauwatosa, WI

When an instructor at Bryant & Stratton College connected Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) student Eva Burkart with Friendship Circle Executive Director Levi Stein for an internship opportunity with Friendship Circle of Wisconsin, Eva began working as a volunteer while simultaneously working on her degree. Eva’s outgoing personality and understanding for others made her the perfect fit for this role. Her experience and knowledge helped her to work in a position that would be beneficial to both her and others. Shortly after completing her degree, Eva was hired as a job coach as a part of Friendship Circle’s employment training program.

Friendship Circle of Wisconsin is a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide individuals who have special needs with support, friendship, and inclusion. They assist by offering recreational, social, educational, and vocational programming. Their mission is to create relationships with individuals with special needs, who often feel isolated, and give them the chance to become contributing members of their community by teaching them and involoving them in work that gives back. While much of Friendship Circle is volunteer based, the organization hires professionals, including those with occupational therapy backgrounds, to better help certain people who go through their programs.

Executive Director Stein was looking for someone specifically with an occupational therapy or occupational therapy assistant background to fill a job coach position in the program. This person would be working directly with people with disabilities or special needs to develop pertinent skills needed to be successful in a job or career.

“Having someone in the OT field is really perfect for this position because we are trying to analyze and understand what the obstacles may be for adults with disabilities, and remediate how they can overcome them,” Stein explains.

“An OT or OTA is perfect for that. This position is not traditional to what OTAs are hired for such as working in a hospital or nursing care facility, but a position like this is something they could be applying for. This is also where they are needed.”

“Someone like Eva was an easy hire for the job because she had all the necessary skills from her degree at Bryant & Stratton College, and reflected the right personality and attitude needed to work with those with disabilities or special needs. In many ways, Eva’s education directly prepared her to handle various day-to-day situations,” Stein explained.

Eva said, “I use my occupational therapy perspective to help address the finer skills people need in our program,” Eva explains. “Every day in dealing with the people in the program, I carry my education from Bryant & Stratton College with me. One case that sticks with me is when one of the trainees in our bakery program had a problem with standing ability and standing tolerance. As he went through the OT program with me, he told us that he noticed improvement in his standing, posture, and reading skills. Being able to use all the functional activities that occupational therapy can offer, we allow these individuals to grow these skills.”

Eva gives participants the opportunity to engage in the community instead of just giving them tasks to do by helping them to strengthen their skills and work in an enviromenmt that will help them to meet and engage with others. When Eva and the rest of the Friendship Circle team feel that their participants are ready, they will help them apply for jobs and find roles that fit them and their skills best.

Reflecting on the beginning of her education, Eva details that she was comparing a few different OTA associate programs when applying for college. She wanted to make sure she chose the right program to achieve her goals.

“I ended up choosing Bryant & Stratton College because I liked how small and intimate the program is,” Eva says. “I was able to have close relationships with and easy access to instructors. I wanted to choose the best possible OTA program, and I felt Bryant & Stratton met that requirement.”

Eva reflects on her time at Bryant & Stratton positively, with many classmates and instructors still inspiring her in what she does today. Eva says, “Amanda Maas, one of my instructors was a big inspiration to me, as she is so hardworking and dedicated. All of my peers and instructors were so passionate about OTA. They all made me want to instill passion in everything that I do.”

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