While working as a Behavior Therapist for children with Autism and going to school full-time at Stanbridge College in the Occupational Therapy Assistant program, Erika Agustin still finds time to do what she loves most: helping others. Erika’s schedule is constantly filled with community service activities. Canned food drives for the hungry, toy drives for children, raising over $2,000 for Autism Awareness and helping her fellow OTA students succeed in their education are just a few of the projects she has created and participated in and there is no stopping her mission to help those in need.
“I was motivated to participate in community service activities because I truly love to help people. It always amazes me how many people out there are willing to put in time to help others. It makes me very happy and I love that high it gives me to see all these people coming together for the same cause.” stated the OTA student.
Erika’s passion for community service started at a young age when she became involved in her family’s local church group serving food for the homeless. In high school, Erika began to develop her interest in creating events for other volunteers to join her passion for aiding those in need.
“My mom was involved with a Rosary Group and they did feedings for the homeless, which I really loved doing. I helped start a Filipino Club and had them help with some of the Rosary Group events along with creating our own community service events. The Filipino Club helped clean parks and fed the homeless as well.”
Since then, Erika has been a driving force behind a number of events on her own and with Stanbridge College REACH™ – Beyond the Classroom. With Stanbridge College REACH, Erika works to help the homeless nearly every month and enjoyed “cheerleading” for the athletes at the Southern California Special Olympics 2012 Summer Games.
“It was great seeing all the children play sports and to know that they were given the chance to play the sport they wanted to play.”
Recently, Erika initiated two activities to benefit children through the HOPE Mentoring Program in Garden Grove. With the help of fellow Stanbridge students, they donated canned food and toys to low-income families and children. In 2012, Erika raised over $2,000 for Autism Speaks in support of Autism Awareness. Erika ran a bake sale on campus at Stanbridge College to help raise funds.
“Helping autistic children is close to my heart because without these children, I would not be at Stanbridge College wanting to be a COTA [Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant]. I definitely want to help educate others who are not familiar with Autism and let them know that there are resources out there that can help families who are affected.”
For her future, Erika hopes to continue her service activities and expand her efforts both locally and globally.
“I would definitely like to take these service events a step further and hopefully go global. My goal is to help build homes for families who have been affected by the typhoon in the Philippines.”
Erika is currently in collaboration with fellow OTA students at Stanbridge to help promote occupational therapy awareness and mentor high school students on the benefits of a career in occupational therapy.
“Our goal is to help fellow Stanbridge students with whatever they need for school and also to further their education. We are also initiating a mentoring program for students in high school and after-school programs to teach them about the differences of OT and other therapist type jobs. We are hoping to collaborate with the Physical Therapist Assistant students so that we can have them present the differences between OT and PT. The goal is to let students know what their options are for their future careers and that they can have a fun and creative job as a COTA.”
For students interested in starting their own community service activity or initiative, Erika feels that anything is possible with the right mindset and support.
“I have learned that friends and family are always willing to help and support, especially if it is for a good cause. It does not hurt to ask for help because you will be surprised at the positive responses. If a student wants to help a specific organization, start locally within your own city and expand from there. There are so many resources on the web and you will find that there are a lot of organizations out there that need help.”
To learn more about Stanbridge College REACH community service activities, please visit www.stanbridge.edu/reach.
For more information about the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Stanbridge College, please visit www.stanbridge.edu.