WJU Physical Therapy student Christy Shaneyfelt shows a young boy from the Yucatan Peninsula how to properly do body stretches.
WJU’s Physical Therapy Students Reflect on 15 Years Serving the Yucatan Peninsula

For 15 years, Wheeling Jesuit University’s Physical Therapy students have participated in a service-learning course that includes providing rehabilitative services to thousands of people in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Students and faculty of WJU’s PT program traveled to the cities and surrounding pueblos of Merida, Izamal and Valladolid in the Yucatan this year to work with a number of community partners. This marks their 15th year serving the residents and agencies in Mexico.

Ten graduate students who enrolled in the course this spring provided free physical therapy services under the supervision and guidance of licensed clinicians from both the United States and Mexico. 

WJU physical therapy student Clayton Kubrick said, “The trip to Merida, Mexico was an incredible experience and it made me realize what it is like to be engulfed in another culture.  Some of my most cherished memories were educating their students, working with the compassionate patients, and being able to live in a culture much different than ours.”

In 15 years, a lot has changed on the annual trip to the Yucatan, said Dr. Mark Drnach, WJU faculty member and coordinator of the course since its inception.

“There has been a recent transformation. Some of the ‘veterans’ who we worked with have moved onto other jobs or positions in their religious communities. There are new staff members and new community partners, but, what is important about change is that we continue to serve and have developed relationships with the people in the Yucatan.  This makes our efforts sustainable and strengthens our bond with the local people,” he said.

Drnach added that this year was emotionally difficult for him and the group after the death of Sr. Claire Hubert, OBS. “Sr. Claire was one of our interpreters in the Yucatan and a vital member of our team since 2001. We missed her, but knew she was with us in spirit,” said Drnach. Sr. Hubert died on Jan. 26 of cancer and was a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict in Erie, Pa.

WJU students will travel next to Haiti in May, then Peru in June and Appalachia in July. The department faculty are also presenting at the 6th International Symposium on Service Learning in Higher Education this spring.

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