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Hands-on learning, close-knit environment guide Physical Therapy student to success

March 24, 2022


For several years, Alissa Prew bounced between two cities and two different colleges as she tried to balance her schoolwork with her husband’s military schedule.

When she finally had the opportunity to settle down and focus exclusively on her education, Prew choose the Community College of Rhode Island to pursue her career in physical therapy.

The 25-year-old Prew, a Scituate, RI, native graduates this spring with her Associate Degree as a Physical Therapist Assistant, where she will work under the direction of a licensed Physical Therapist to help patients suffering from injuries or disease improve their strength, mobility, and overall quality of life.

Prew enrolled at CCRI in the Fall of 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic forced many institutions, including CCRI, to transition to remote learning. The change was difficult at first for Prew, who describes herself as a “hands-on learner,” but she adapted and maintained a 4.0 grade point average throughout her time at CCRI and joined the college’s Pi Omicron chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for two-year colleges.

As a result of her success in the classroom and her score in the All-USA Academic Team competition, which was the highest in the state, Prew recently earned a $1,250 New Century Workforce Pathway Scholarship, an award that recognizes the most outstanding workforce-bound student from each state.

Prew credits much of her success to CCRI, whose Physical Therapy Assistant program offers the necessary hands-on training and ample one-on-one time with professors and industry experts to ensure students get the direction they need to effectively treat patients.

“The individuality of the program is what makes CCRI so special,” Prew said. “I had such a small class, so I was able to work directly with my teachers and classmates. That intimate atmosphere helps you develop a relationship with all of your classmates. You bond through such a challenging program.

“I really enjoyed that sense of community at CCRI.”

A standout athlete most of her life, Prew played volleyball and softball at Scituate High School, where she developed a passion for helping others. The desire to work in both sports and healthcare made physical therapy an obvious choice.

After high school, Prew attended the University of Rhode Island for one semester, then transferred to Craven Community College in North Carolina when her husband, Santiago, a member of the United States Marine Corps, was reassigned to Camp Lejeune.

Within two years, Prew and her husband moved back to Rhode Island to be closer to family, finally allowing Prew to pursue her degree at CCRI without any interruptions. She began her clinical work at The Miriam Hospital when the state began lifting COVID restrictions and continues working part time as a Physical Therapy Aide at Sport & Spine Physical Therapy in West Warwick, where she assists a variety of patients in need of physical therapy.

Some clients are recovering from surgery and need help regaining mobility or range of motion. Others are athletes rehabilitating from an injury. Sport & Spine has an additional location in Coventry and allows for direct, one-on-one interactions with the patients and therapists, which is a more comfortable setting for Prew.

“I’ve always preferred that environment over much larger hospitals or clinics,” she said. “You can spend more time with the patient to fully understand his or her limitations and it allows you to provide the best care possible.”

While her ultimate dream is to one day open her own practice, she has happily found her niche in a critical, competitive industry where she can apply her personal and professional skills to help those who need it most.

“You see it all in this industry,” Prew said. “It’s a difficult, but rewarding, field.”

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