Dr. Jasmine Thomas’ story has come full circle. The 2018 graduate of Polk State College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program has returned with her Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree to serve as the program’s Clinical Coordinator.
“Coming back is my way of giving back,” Thomas shared. “I can be a testimony to students that are in similar situations, specifically someone who may come from a lower-income family, may have children, or may have struggles of their own. I can be an example of how you can overcome those things and strive for better.”
Thomas began her career as a middle school science teacher. She was introduced to students who were undergoing occupational therapy, which sparked her interest in the field.
“As a teacher, I always wanted to help others. When I was exposed to students who needed occupational therapy…, I thought I could be beneficial because I do love teaching and I also want to help them to fulfill all their everyday needs,” Thomas explained of her decision to change careers.
“What intrigued me the most about occupational therapy? It is creative, it is very hands-on, and no day is the same.”
An occupational therapy assistant works under the supervision of an occupational therapist to provide patients with methods and techniques to perform daily tasks as well as ways to adapt their environment to maximize independent functioning.
Polk State offers an Associate in Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) degree program to train graduates for work in the field and prepare for the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) licensure exam. Polk State OTA graduates boast a 95% pass rate on the licensure exam, exceeding state and national averages. This success is due in large part to the professionals who lead and teach the program.
“During my second year, which was my senior year here at Polk State College, I fell in love with occupational therapy. I felt that I was skilled in it and that it was my passion,” Thomas reflected. “[Polk State OTA] is holistic. It allows you to be creative. It pushes you to the next level and it helped get me to where I am today.”
Upon her graduation from the program in 2018, Thomas served as an OTA for Life Care Center in Winter Haven and on an as-needed basis for AdventHealth’s Lake Wales Medical Center.
During her doctoral studies in 2022, Thomas returned to Polk State to work alongside faculty, staff, and students as she completed research for her dissertation.
“It’s a wide-open field where you get to be creative,” Thomas said in 2022 when she was aspiring for a career in higher education ahead of her graduation from Nova Southeastern University. “That’s what attracted me to occupational therapy and that’s what I want to share with aspiring students. You can one day open your own practice, you can work for others, you can build and implement educational programs – you can start new things that don’t even exist yet.”
Now, she’s living it as a Clinical Coordinator for Polk State OTA.
“I would encourage anyone who is looking to help others and find value in their job every single day to attend Polk State’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program,” Thomas said. “Give it your best and go for it.”
Polk State College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program accepts applications from September 1 through September 30. More information is available by visiting polk.edu/ota.