Class of 2022: Jordan Althoff

"During my time at UVA I dove into helping the community." Graduating with a B.S.Ed. in May, Jordan was committed to giving back to the UVA and Charlottesville communities during her time as an undergrad.

Audrey Breen

Jordan Althoff will earn her Bachelor of Science in Education degree in Kinesiology from the School of Education and Human Development in May. A native of Harford County, Maryland, she will next call Colorado home as she pursues a Doctor of Physical Therapy at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical campus.

Q. How did you find your way to the UVA School of Education & Human Development and to Kinesiology for your program of study?

I chose UVA for a few reasons. I wanted to branch out a bit from being in Maryland. I knew UVA was a great school, and, as cliche as it sounds, it was really just a feeling I got when stepping onto Grounds for the first time that pushed me towards my final decision.

Charlottesville is also a great area that has everything you would want in a college town; this included a volunteer fire department which was something I took time to look for when touring schools. As for the School of Education and Human Development, I chose this because UVA has a great Kinesiology program and an even better focus on Kinesiology for Individuals with Disabilities. I really loved the overlap of the Kinesiology program with the education and special education programs that were available at UVA.

Q. Volunteering has been a critical part of your time while at UVA. Can you share some  of the work you’ve been doing in the community?

During my time at UVA I dove into helping the community. In the UVA community I was a member of the University Programs Council (UPC) for 3 years. During this time, I was on the Late-Night committee, the SpringFest committee, and the executive board, as Vice Chair of Membership. The year I was Vice Chair of Membership was the year we were all making a really difficult transition to an online, isolated life. While clearly the most difficult year, this was the year where I learned to be most understanding, flexible, and empathetic.

Also through UVA, I am a Big Sister for the Young Women Leadership Program (YWLP). A group of UVA students and I mentor a group of 7th graders at Burley Middle School, in Albemarle County. Through this program we teach them empowerment, leadership, relationship and communication skills, as well as have some tough conversations that don’t happen during school hours.

In addition to these two things, a few years ago, Abby Fines, assistant professor in the Kinesiology program, and I with the help of Matt Simpson and Kinesiology Professor Martin Block hosted a goalball clinic for UVA and the Charlottesville community. GoalBall is a sport for the visually impaired and it is the only sport that does not have a “sighted” sport that it was based on. Events like this provide opportunities for those who are visually impaired to engage in physical activity and have a fun team-sport experience; a lot of times they never even think this is possible.

Something else I do for the local Charlottesville community is I volunteer at Seminole Trail Volunteer Fire Department (STVFD) - this is probably the most rewarding, educational, and impactful volunteering I do. In high school I earned my Fire 1, Hazardous Material Operations, and EMT Certifications through the cadet program in my hometown. Over the course of the past couple years, I have transferred these certifications to Virginia in order to become a firefighter at STVFD. With a shift every week and an occasional weekend shift I have interacted a lot with the community, continued my training, and made a lot of friends!

The last thing I do to engage with the Charlottesville community is I work at a PT @ ACAC which is a physical therapy clinic in Albemarle Square shopping center. I started out as a volunteer, doing a lot of shadowing, administrative work, and cleaning. I ultimately was offered a spot on the staff and now I work directly with patients educating them on how to do exercises that will help them recover from surgeries, build strength, and prevent future injuries.

Q. What is the most significant thing that has shaped your time while you’ve been here?

I think an easy answer to this question is the pandemic. The pandemic completely flipped my college experience upside down for a full 2 years; every challenge was exasperated by Covid. During the holiday season of 2020 both of my grandmothers passed away; one unexpectedly with COVID and one over the time period of a month or so. I spent a lot of time at home during this period and found myself taking a lot of Covid tests to keep me, my family, and my roommates safe. 

While this experience didn’t happen at UVA, this experience changed the rest of my time here. I began prioritizing my time towards things that mattered most to me and focused on the values that my grandmothers instilled in me. I quit a job that was causing me stress and limiting my availability to do the things I love and work towards my goals. I began using my time to travel more. And I make every effort to make many trips home and spend time with my family. UVA and the Charlottesville community allowed me to make the most of my time here after the wakeup call that was 2020.

Q. What is one thing you learned during your studies that surprised you most?

The thing I learned that was most surprising during my studies is the importance of a mindful moment. While admittedly, I originally thought this was a cheesy, unimportant start to several of the classes I took, I began to appreciate the moment of silence that my brain could have before a class. This moment allowed me to recognize all the chaotic thoughts I was having, acknowledge them, dismiss them, and become fully present in the class I was in. Usually, sitting in silence with just me and my thoughts would cause me anxiety. It would send me into a spiral of all the things I had to do and all the time I didn’t have to do them. Instead, these moments allowed me to compartmentalize these thoughts and get the most out of the class I was starting. I use many different variations of these mindful moments now when I become overwhelmed.

Q. What will you be doing after graduation?

Immediately after graduation I will be taking a road trip out to Colorado in order to continue my studies at University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical campus, where I plan to get my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. The accelerated program starts June 6th and will be finished in December of 2024.

With this new degree there are a few things I hope to dive into the field of pediatric neurological physical therapy as well as have the chance to work with amputees, specifically through the VA hospital. I’ll also be making trips home for my sister's wedding, to see my niece and nephews, as well as for holidays, birthdays, and for as many other important moments as possible.

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