In a community where everyone belongs, we all thrive
Sometimes in life we’re given rare opportunities – but our fate is often determined by our level of recognition and how we choose to accept those special moments.
Roger Avecillas comes from an Ecuadorian background, where family is the pillar to their existence. From an early age he and his brother were taught to care for others and help those in need – life lessons that he still values to this day. Growing up, his family didn’t have the financial means to allow him to attend just any college, but Roger had his sights set on Seton Hall – even though he knew the expense would be a major obstacle. But, just as he had been taught, family mattered so his parents put together what they had to give him this opportunity, and instilled in him the motivation to chase his dreams – something Roger never took for granted.
“My parents provided an opportunity for me to be successful in life and it has been the driving force throughout my career,” explains Roger.
Today you’ll find Roger wearing a number of different hats within our organization. He’s a practicing physical therapist, clinic director of our Belleville, NJ office, a member of our IBelong Steering Committee, and part of our HS Outreach Plan. These roles all have different agendas, but one thing in common – serving others.
“Diversity and inclusion have played a huge role at Ivy Rehab,” explains Roger. “It’s been such a pleasant experience, where from day one I felt like I fit in. Coming from a hispanic background I’ve experienced bias and segregation growing up so it was an amazing feeling to be respected as a peer and as a clinic director.”
When Ivy Rehab introduced the IBelong program, Roger was immediately intrigued. He believes it’s imperative to value all ethnicities and cultures that we encounter on a daily basis because our communities are comprised of various backgrounds, each of which is as important as the next. Roger feels strongly that every individual holds the same value regardless of their background.
In an effort to educate students on pursuing a career in physical therapy, Roger spent many years volunteering at the local high school. But it was through his work with our IBelong program that he was able to create something much greater for high school students – The HS Outreach Plan. The goal of the HS Outreach Plan is to create opportunities for high school students to get an early start and gain real world knowledge and experience by job shadowing and observing in one of our clinics – an opportunity that Roger says he wishes he had when he was in high school. It was through this program that Roger met a young student named Asmaa.
Motivation and determination give you the tools you need to succeed
After experiencing one sports injury after another, Asmaa was finally sidelined with a sprained knee – an injury she sustained at a high school wrestling practice. Agonizing was the word she used to describe the crack she felt in her knee, but due to complications with her medical insurance, Asmaa needed to take actions into her own hands. She began researching rehabilitation methods and exercises to help aid in the recovery process, but with limited experience and knowledge, she could only do so much. In the end, her sprained knee set her back and she ended up missing the girls wrestling regional tournament. Left with so many unanswered questions, her desire for more knowledge only grew stronger.
Having grown up playing soccer at a high level, Roger himself was no stranger to sports injuries. He also fell into physical therapy as a means to help himself heal and stay healthy enough to continue to play. Perhaps this is something the two had in common when Roger began mentoring Asmaa in the clinic. When he used real life anatomy models to explain joint pain, bicep tears and Asmaa’s personal favorite – knee sprains, things really began to click because she could apply what she was learning to real life experiences. It was moments like these that solidified Asmaa’s decision to pursue a career in physical therapy.
“Asmaa truly displayed an eagerness to learn more about physical therapy,” explains Roger. “She came in with a positive attitude, demonstrated empathy, and went beyond her scheduled hours to reach out and ask questions. I saw motivation and determination in Asmaa and I knew she had the tools necessary to succeed.”
Helping others…it’s just what you do
Throughout her time in the clinic, Asmaa appreciated the fact that she was able to talk to an expert who had been in her shoes. She and Roger talked about everything from physical therapy to what classes she should take, and what would be expected of her in PT school. These conversations set up a roadmap for her to successfully move forward, but this was just the start. After graduation Asmaa plans to work with patients from diverse backgrounds, different age groups, student athletes, and patients with various medical issues.
“I also plan on teaching Anatomy & Physiology as a professor in the future as well,” explains Asmaa. “I believe that learning should be fun and interesting. As a matter of fact, that’s why I also plan on continuing my EMT career as well – it teaches me so much about patient care and clinical experiences.”
Roger has checked in with Asmaa from time to time, to see how her academic journey is going and answer any questions she may have. And when the opportunity arises, he continues to speak at local high schools and support students who have an interest in the therapy field. Some of these duties may go above and beyond his traditional role as a physical therapist, but for him, it’s just what you do – help others.
“I don’t see it as volunteering,” said Roger. “I see this as an opportunity to help others find their way and choose a great career to follow. I was fortunate enough to have a few amazing mentors in my life, including my parents, who expressed the importance of hard work and the ability to value others equally.”
Is a career in therapy right for you?
If you’re in high school or college, or the parent of a student who would like to learn more about physical, occupational, or speech therapy as a career, we’d love to connect through our HS Outreach Plan. We have job shadowing opportunities available at many of our clinics, along with experienced therapists like Roger Avecillas who are always willing to share their knowledge and love for our field. Contact a location near you to find out more about available opportunities.