Senior Exercise Science major Taylor Barrineau has one goal: to help others achieve theirs

Growing up, senior Exercise Science major Taylor Barrineau was extremely interested in her mother’s career as an occupational therapist. Barrineau observed the way her mom worked with patients and helped them reach their goals through restorative movement and exercise, but it wasn’t until she began volunteering with Special Olympics in high school that she knew she wanted to follow a similar career path.

“I stuck with it, and I was able to see students I grew up with in high school and middle school achieve their goals through Special Olympics, and I saw how physical therapists and occupational therapists were a part of that process,” Barrineau said. She pointed specifically to one of her peers who struggled to walk throughout middle school but was able to make immense growth thanks to years of physical and occupational therapy. “In high school I was partnered with her for Special Olympics, and she was able to run and do all these things. The physical therapists were getting emotional and you could tell she was really happy. That was a big ‘aha’ moment for me when I realized this could make a big impact.”

This was a key moment for Barrineau when she began thinking about college, what she would like to study, and her career goals. Now, she has nearly completed her Exercise Science degree on a pre-physical therapy track and will begin physical therapy school at Western Carolina University following graduation in Fall 2024.

Barrineau is a life-long athlete who also played on the women’s soccer team throughout her time at Lees-McRae, an experience that helped her focus her passion for physical therapy toward working with athletes. While her experience on the team helped her define her focus, her time in the classroom completing internships and observation hours gave her experience and helped her hone the skills she would need to make a career out of that passion.

“I just felt like physical therapy was an extension of me. I had a passion for it, and it was purposeful for me. I felt like it wasn’t going to be a job for me,” Barrineau said. “When you see people reach goals you helped them with it’s so rewarding.”

Although she now has a clear vision for her career and has laid many of the steppingstones that will help her get here, Barrineau said she wasn’t always sure about the path she would take. At the beginning of her undergraduate career Barrineau was stuck in her comfort zone, and although she had an interest in healthcare and physical therapy inspired by her mom and her volunteer work, she wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted or how to get there.

Looking back now, she says she is proud of the way she has matured and gotten to know herself through her experience as a leader on the soccer team, a passionate community volunteer, and a driven student in the classroom.

“With the small class sizes and really getting to know your professors, they can give you advice and really help you with whatever you ask them to help you with. Lees-McRae is very hands-on,” Barrineau said. “I think it has gotten me out of my comfort zone more. At a bigger school you kind of just get by a lot of the time and can be in the shadows, but when you’re here at Lees-McRae your professors notice when you’re not there. They will call on you in class. You can’t really get by without interacting in class, and talking, and getting out of your comfort zone.”

As she anticipates graduation and prepares for physical therapy school and beyond, Barrineau has long-term goals for her career and life. She dreams of one day owning her own physical therapy clinic where she can help clients achieve their own goals and lead a life that balances her passion for her career and her personal life.

“I just want to feel fulfilled with my job, and I think I can really do that with PT,” she said.

By Maya JarrellMarch 15, 2024