Alexa Ratkowski always wanted to give back to the community where she grew up.
McKenzie Brouk found support at Trine to achieve her goal of PT school
June 07, 2023
McKenzie Brouk says transferring to Trine University as a junior is one of the best decisions she ever made.
“I instantly felt at home the second I stepped onto Trine's campus; not only with the skating team, but the faculty, staff and everyone I crossed paths with,” she said. “Even when I was at my lowest, everyone around me at Trine was building me up.”
The Dallas, Texas, native went on to earn her exercise science degree at Trine. While attending Trine, she was a member of the synchronized skating and figure skating teams, serving as a captain of the collegiate synchronized skating team from 2020-2022.
In addition to skating, she was a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and a SOAR leader. She also launched and was president of Athletes Connected, a student-athlete mental advocacy group that served as a resource for herself and other athletes who were struggling with cancellations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Encouragement from advisor, coach
She said her academic advisor, Emily Watkins, and her skating coach, Rachel Franchock, both provided key support during her time at Trine. Watkins encouraged McKenzie when she struggled to keep working toward her goal of attending physical therapy school.
“Emily did whatever she could to encourage me to keep pushing through, find different ways to study, and help make a plan of checklist items that I needed to accomplish to achieve my goal,” McKenzie said. “She truly cares about each and every one of her students and is incredibly engaging during her classes.”
“Rachel helped me grow not only as an athlete, but as the person and leader I would be once my time as an athlete was finished. She challenged my way of thinking and motivated me to be a better teammate, captain, athlete and person. She was there for me when I went through some of the worst seasons in my life and supported me no matter what.”
Applications, wedding plans and coaching
After completing her degree in 2022, she took a gap year to focus on her physical therapy school applications, gain more experience in the profession and take a mental health break before entering a PT program.
“I worked for Parkview Huntington's outpatient rehab and wellness as a rehab tech and thoroughly enjoyed my time in this role,” she said. “I was able to assist therapists during treatment and gain exposure to different areas of physical therapy like pediatrics and neuro. We saw an average of 60 to 100 patients a day.”
In addition to working and travelling to physical therapy school interviews and elsewhere, McKenzie spent the year planning her wedding. She also coached figure skating through a Learn to Skate program in Fort Wayne, giving back to the sport she loves.
She eventually decided to earn her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at Trine. She begins the program in fall 2023.
“I ultimately chose Trine's DPT program because of the opportunity students have to get into the clinical setting starting their first semester of the program and because I knew it was going to bring me that sense of home feeling I had during my undergrad,” she said.
She plans to become a pediatric physical therapist. She said her own experience in feeling hopeless while waiting for a diagnosis has taught her the need for empathy for her future patients.
“I want to be a voice for patients who feel like they are not heard, especially when it comes to the tiny humans,” she said.
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