Go! You got it. You got it. I feel that I'm like becoming more stronger because of the different exercises we do. I just smile and keep working. Yeah, I love it. I know in the long run it's like, better for me.
Marissa Courtney is working towards a goal. She's working on her strength. She's working on her conditioning.
Keep it up, keep it up, keep it up.
And she's working on her balance.
Hold. Hold. hold.
Who is pushing her to do all of this.
Her name is Emily.
We haven't tried this before. You think we could try some push ups today?
She's got a lot of fun. I love working with her.
Nice job. Yeah. killed it.
We talk about like, oh, random stuff.
What'd you end up doing last weekend? Did you go to North Carolina?
So like just laugh about it.
Emily is a physical therapy student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, or SHRS, home to one of the top ranked PT programs in the nation. She's helping Marissa with strengthening and conditioning.
I think she challenges me to keep pushing her keep getting to that next level.
When Emily was in her first year, she heard about a unique opportunity to develop her skills outside of the PT program's curriculum.
We put in a lot of work and a lot of time and learning how to be the best PTs we can be. So anything we can do on the side to kind of enhance that is something I was looking for.
She volunteered for an organization called MightyStrong, initiated and developed by Pitt PT students before her, Mighty Strong volunteers help strengthen and condition athletes like Marissa. It gives students like Emily the opportunity to take what she learns during these sessions and apply it to physical therapy. And she isn't alone. Charlie Badawi and Jen McKee are also physical therapy students at SHRS who volunteer for the Mighty Strong, they manage the entire operation, from scheduling to training other Pitt PT student volunteers.
Pitt students are motivated, I think that they really care about the profession that they're getting into. As hard as it is to kind of find the time to do all these things and juggle all these responsibilities, this is something that I prioritize very highly, because there's just so much value being provided to myself to the other students, and then also to the athletes.
I think being at Pitt is very beneficial and it provides us this opportunity to really get out in the community, engage with the people that we don't always get that chance to during class or even as graduated physical therapists. So this program gives us a really great opportunity to use our skills and our knowledge as physical therapy students to provide a safe and accessible environment so that anybody with any ability is able to participate and is able to get stronger and faster, and maximize their performance as an athlete.
And all of these athletes are working towards a common goal.
So it's the Mighty Penguins. It's an adaptive sled hockey team that competes. They're from the Pittsburgh area, and they travel all across the country to compete with other sled hockey teams.
Not only do we have Marissa, there are dozens of other athletes here who work with us, alongside us through this program.
Athletes like Ekow who enjoys being a part of the Mighty Penguins.
It's fun to be part of a team because now I get to travel to tournaments and I make lots of friends.
These athletes are so close, they're like a family, they really are.
When they're in here, and they kind of see one of their friends or one of their teammates working close by them, you know, they kind of make eye contact they root each other on even while we're here. So it kind of just builds that camaraderie between them.
It was amazing to kind of over the past few years to see their bond to see the relationships that they have between each other.
relationships like the one Marissa has with her boyfriend, Marty.
I started coming here to the Lamiuex complex and then after a while, I just saw her coming. I'm like, She's beautiful.
She has got to be my love.
Being a Mighty Strong athlete isn't just about forming relationships.
I think one of the greatest benefits that we saw from these athletes was that they had improved confidence, improved self-advocacy, improved, you know, knowledge and understanding of health and fitness.
Alex Brinley is a physical therapy alumnus. He founded the Mighty Strong several years ago when he was in his third year of the PT program.
They felt more confident in everyday activities, whether it be transfers, whether it be feeding themselves, everything. I think those were some of the things we look back on we're almost even more proud of than the fact that we were able to show them that they could get stronger.
And how do PT students benefit from working with these athletes?
It's not just seeing them on that rehab side. They're seeing what they're capable of after rehab and how can we empower people that we're seeing in our physical therapy setting to continue to optimize their function, their independence, and use that knowledge to share with others like what is possible?
And for Marissa,
I think it helps her as an athlete like it would any athlete kind of giving them the confidence to know that they can do more. I hope that she kind of carries with her and continues to spread that attitude of I really can do this. I really can do whatever I put my mind to.