Ashtabula Student Named 2019 Outstanding Occupational Therapy Assistant
Those are some of the words used by Kent State University at Ashtabula Occupational Therapy Assistant Technology faculty to describe Lauren Whitten. But they aren’t the only ones who think so highly of the second-year student from Geneva, Ohio, as Whitten was recently named the Sharon Kay Ashworth Outstanding Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Student by the Ohio Occupational Therapy Association (OOTA).
The award is designed to acknowledge student members of OOTA who participate in activities to promote occupational therapy in their community and who contribute to the professional growth of occupational therapy by participation in leadership roles in their district, state, and/or national associations.
“It’s very humbling, the fact that something I did or the character I presented was something that stood out is very encouraging and that’s something I hope to continue to promote in my professional career,” Whitten said. “You have to be nominated by a professor or staff and I look at myself and I look at the other people in my class and I don’t honestly know why I was chosen out of all the other outstanding students. There are so many talented and hardworking people in our program who inspire me.”
Whitten carries a perfect 4.0 grade point average despite the heavy OTA course load and will graduate with an associate of applied science degree in occupational therapy assistant technology in December. Currently she is conducting her field experience at Lake Area Recovery Center (LARC) in Ashtabula. Whitten was the first student in the program’s history to request a non-traditional Level II fieldwork experience and is serving in a setting where she can share occupational therapy values and provide unique services in a facility that does not currently provide occupational therapy.
“Our program is proud of how Lauren contributes to the profession as a student and advocates for the role of the Occupational Therapy Assistant,” said Lecturer Janine Ricketts, MS, OTR/L, who presented Whitten with her award at the OOTA annual conference in October. “Lauren continuously promotes the distinct value of Occupational Therapy with students, community members, clients and faculty through her creative problem solving and fearless nature.”
A member of both the OOTA and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), Whitten has served as the OOTA Northeast District Student Representative since May 2018 and was actively involved in the planning of the district’s spring workshop for working OT and OTA professionals. She has also been an active volunteer with the school’s Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) club, serving as social chair and taking part in promoting occupational therapy with the 1,000-plus participants at Ashtabula County’s Longest Day of Play.
“We are thrilled to see Lauren recognized in this way,” said Occupational Therapy Assistant Technology Program Director Julie Mirabell, MS, OT/L. “She is a true ambassador of this program and our profession, as evidenced by her service and leadership not only here on campus but in her role and experience with the OOTA.
Following her graduation in December, Whitten plans to continue her education and pursue her bachelor’s degree in public health, an online program she can complete while embarking on her professional career.
“The wonderful thing about being at Kent State Ashtabula is being able to be connected with the other campuses and programs,” she said. “Once I finish my degree here, I can pursue my career as an occupational therapy assistant and complete the 100% online program to finish my bachelor’s degree.”
Part of the reason the online component is so enticing, is that it enables her to continue to have a vital role in and around her hometown.
“It’s very important to be in this community,” she added. “I love being here and love being in this community.”
Learn more about Whitten and the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program – moving to the state of Ohio’s first hybrid model in 2020 – by visiting www.kent.edu/ashtabula/ota.