Herston lives out her passion for helping others

Kelley Peters, Staff Writer

Anne Herston, a Graduate Assistant in the Kinesiology Department at the University of North Alabama, has a dream to be an occupational therapist. The experiences that she is able to have at UNA have given her the tools to build that dream. 

Herston earned her bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science with a clinical concentration, and she is currently working to earn a degree in Human Health and Performance with a concentration in Kinesiology. She will be attending the University of Alabama in Birmingham in May to pursue a clinical doctorate in occupational therapy. Herston did not originally plan to go into occupational therapy, but when she looked into it, she found her passion.  

“I fell in love with it,” Herston said. “It’s this really beautiful career that combines everything that I love. My favorite thing about it is that you can find something that someone truly enjoys and loves. If they need therapy for something specific, like learning to put their hair up in a ponytail, learning to drive again or even something as simple as learning how to write, you can take those occupations of daily life and something they truly love and put it in a therapy setting. It’s a really cool art form.”  

Herston’s work as a Graduate Assistant has led to her teaching the class Aerobic Fitness. In addition to this, she works within the Kinesiology Department on research with professors, as well as with undergraduate students in her major.  

“It’s awesome, most of all the relationships that I’ve built with my colleagues and the professors in the Kinesiology Department,” Herston said. “They’re phenomenal. They want you to learn, and they provide every single thing you could ever imagine so you can learn something you’re interested in.” 

Treasure Franklin

Teaching Aerobic Fitness has given Herston many opportunities to develop skills that she will need for her future career, like interpersonal skills, responsibility and experience teaching others.  

“Therapy, in a way, is teaching,” Herston said. “It’s teaching movements, learning communication with people and learning how to best facilitate experiences for those around you. Teaching has helped me see how I can fit that in my career.”  

In Aerobic Fitness, students are exposed to many types of fitness activities and are asked to problem-solve according to different challenges that could be faced within those types of exercises. This can include modifying an exercise to accommodate any degree of injury or other restriction, as well as creating exercises of varying difficulty levels for those of all athletic abilities. Herston also teaches basics of physical health, such as the importance of gradually increasing or decreasing heart rate, to maintain safety while exercising in the future. More than anything, however, she encourages her students to try to find an exercise that they enjoy. 

“I really love to teach that exercise is for everyone,” Herston said. “The most important part is that you find an exercise that you enjoy. There are exercises where I thought, ‘I will never like that.’ I didn’t even want to try them, but I ended up loving them. I think that there’s so much importance in finding things in life that you love. Exercise is very similar in that aspect. When you find something you love, all the physical benefits come with it, but I preach a lot about mental health and exercise as well. It’s something that can be super beneficial to your mental health. If you think about exercise from the aspect of enjoyment, everything else falls in line.”  

Herston has also found something that she loves in occupational therapy. She was able to shadow therapists at Stepping Stones Pediatric Therapy Clinic, where she also later had an internship. The experiences allowed her to ask questions, see the daily tasks of a therapist and see her dream actualized, which helped her to decide on occupational therapy as her career goal. The experiences that she has gained through these opportunities has carried over into interview settings, where she is able to talk about her love of the job that she gained through watching therapists exceed expectations for patients.  

“[A good therapist] is one who truly goes above and beyond,” Herston said. “It’s not just the therapy that they’re doing or the day-to-day tasks they perform. It’s that their hearts are in it. They wake up and think, ‘What is the absolute best care that I can give every single person throughout my day?’ Obviously, the education, the background, that all comes with it too, but at the end of the day, your heart for the people that you’re around and your willingness to go above and beyond with that is what makes an exceptional therapist.”  

Herston maintains that her ability to pursue the career she loves is possible because of the professors at UNA, who have always aided and encouraged her to pursue what makes her happiest.  

“In my career, I’m looking forward to seeking out the best care for patients, to go above and beyond and look further beyond the information that we have currently,” Herston said. “Also, one of my favorite parts of life is making connections, getting to know people and knowing what inspires them. That’s my favorite thing. That’s what I look forward to most. I love to see people reach their dreams.”