Steve Knapp — Physical Therapist Assistant
At 51, Steve Knapp is taking on a new challenge. He is enrolled in the Physical Therapist Assistant program at North Central State College.
His journey back to the classroom began when General Motors, his place of employment since he was 18 years old, was preparing to close the local plant. A journeyman electrician, he previously earned an electronic engineering degree from NC State.
“When rumors about the plant closing began circulating, I found myself wondering what I would do if I was suddenly without a job,” Knapp recalls. “I searched for other ideas of doing something different than electrical work in a factory. While working at the Mansfield GM plant, I had met some physical therapists through GM’s employee rehabilitation center. After talking with the therapists and seeing how they helped injured GM workers regain their strength so they could get back to work, I decided that this would be a field of work that I would be interested in. I began researching this line of work and found out about North Central State College’s Physical Therapist Assistant program.”
Knapp volunteered at a physical therapy outpatient rehabilitation center. He learned that he enjoyed watching and learning from this experience. While still working at GM, he started taking classes to become qualified to get into the Physical Therapist Assistant program.
But a transfer to a different plant delayed the opportunity. “As the doors of the Mansfield GM plant were getting closer to closing for good, I was able to transfer to the GM plant in Parma. For the next two and half years of driving to the Parma plant, I wondered if this plant would close and I would be in the same predicament,” Knapp said. “I decided not to wait for something to happen, but to continue with what I started.”
Knapp’s journey to change careers continued as he took early retirement from GM and was accepted into the Physical Therapist Assistant program this year. He plans to graduate in May 2015 with a goal of working in an outpatient facility.
The Mansfield resident enjoys his classes and getting to know his classmates. “It was tough getting started. It took a while to get used to studying again, but I got into a study group and things have gone well,” Knapp said. “Being around the young kids has been awesome. They look at me as the calm, older voice. They even elected me class president for the Physical Therapist Assistant program.”
As class president, Knapp organizes volunteer work. He has also counseled classmates. “I’ve influenced the younger students,” he said. “I tell them they can do better and that they need to study. I tell them they need to make it a priority.”
Married to Kim for 28 years, Knapp said he is grateful for the support he has received: “I hope to inspire others that it is never too late to go back to school. Of course, all of this would not have been possible without the encouragement of my family and the instructors at North Central State College.”
A recipient of the Gorman Fund Scholarship, Knapp is also grateful for the monetary support he received. “The scholarship helped quite a bit,” he said. “It was an unexpected blessing. I want to thank the Gorman Fund for believing in me and helping me to achieve my goals with their generous scholarship.”