Helping Others Scholarship

Helping Others Scholarship winner for 2014: Melissa Ryan. is proud to award Melissa Ryan our 2014 "Helping Others Scholarship".

Melissa's Essay:

Almost two years ago, while I was teaching, I was given the opportunity to attend an educators' workshop at the Marine Corps base at Parris Island. I was amazed at the level of exposure we, as civilians, were allowed into the makings of a Marine. It gave me a whole new appreciation for what the men and women of the armed forces in our nation do for us and for others around the world, and I was deeply moved by the sacrifice these people make so that others of us may enjoy our freedoms and the comforts of our own homes. I was further impressed with the level of support the local Marines, who organized this trip, provided me as a teacher, subsequent to our return. They provided classroom supplies, gave of their time to speak with my students, and made themselves available to help me in any way I saw fit. Teaching in a high-needs urban school, all of this was much appreciated.

As I had never had a personal connection with anyone in our armed forces before, I was grateful for the opportunity to learn what I did through this exposure. Subsequently, I spent more time learning about the costs of the wars our nation wages, as well as the costs to the individual soldiers fighting them. I attended a panel discussion about the psychological effects of war, in which I was horrified to learn that though there were around 6,000 combat deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, there have been 30,000 suicides during or following service in these wars. I was moved to act.

As a massage therapy student, I've learned a great deal about the benefits of massage therapy, and my hope is to use massage as a means of treatment for returning veterans, with an outcome of reducing the suicide rate among this population. I've chosen to study the effects of massage on soldiers with PTSD for my pathology project, and will document the benefits I am able to discern. I have sources through the local Marine Corps office, the local Veterans' Administration, and have a friend who has PTSD as a result of service, who has agreed to be my case study. I also hope to visit the Navy base in North Carolina as part of my study.

Throughout this process, I have not become more pro-war; I have never believed that war is the solution to any problem. However, our nation will continue to engage in combat, as well as send troops in to natural disasters worldwide; any of these people could suffer from PTSD or other psychological problems, and I believe massage therapy can help them regain normalcy once they return home and to civilian life. To my knowledge, no such program exists as a means to help soldiers readjust, and I understand that not all candidates would view massage as a part of their therapeutic journey. However, if even one life is saved, I feel as if my time and efforts would have been well spent.

This cause has personal meaning for me, due in great part to the connections I've made with local Marines. However, as a former teacher of underprivileged students, I know that joining the armed services is the only means many of them have to escape the cycle of poverty into which many of them are thrust. The very children that I strove to help in the classroom might also benefit from such a program, in which massage could help them deal with war-related traumas, and help them to maintain a healthy life subsequent to service. That gives me great hope, and strong motivation to continue in the vein of helping others beyond the classroom.

Helping Others Scholarship winner for 2013: Karyn Claflin. is proud to award Karyn Claflin who is attending Parkland College our 2013 "Helping Others Scholarship". Karyn has a strong history of volunteer work which we hope she intends on continuing once she has completed her massage training.

Karyn's Essay:

I had never had a massage until I decided to go to school for it. Now I aim to get at least one a month as part of my self-care routine. Massage is a great complement to conventional medical care. I am very interested in what massage has to offer to those dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. I know it has greatly helped with my own stress and anxiety. Everyone should be able to reap the benefits of massage.

I recently had the opportunity to give a massage to an elderly woman who had never had one. It was a very profound experience for me. She said she felt the massage would help with her breathing and that she would like one every week. I would like to work with this population, maybe in a long term care facility or similar setting, providing massage to residents who may not have much contact with family and who may feel isolated from the world. I feel providing compassionate touch to this population would greatly improve their quality of life.

It has always been important to me to give back to my community, and I would love to be able to give back with massage therapy. Everyone deserves a regular massage, but not everyone can afford one. I was in AmeriCorps from the fall of 2005 through the summer of 2006, serving for an organization that ran a free clinic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While there, I worked with volunteer medical providers and students to help uninsured folks access much needed healthcare. I was able to revamp their system of accessing free prescription medications through pharmaceutical companies. This experience opened my eyes to the lack of access many have to affordable healthcare.

When I get my license to practice massage therapy in Illinois, I plan to partner with a local organization to offer massage to those who cannot afford it. There is a local community health center, Frances Nelson, where patients are seen based on a sliding scale fee. I think it would be amazing to be able to offer massage at this clinic. I envision being able to offer massage one day a week and maybe getting some of my colleagues involved to offer it more often. Almost every job I have had has been in the "helping" professions, and I had always thought I would go back for a master's degree in Social Work. I instead decided on Massage Therapy because I want to help people in a more immediate, tangible way compared to what a social worker does. I feel like you can do that with massage, and I am excited to start my career as a Massage Therapist. is the premier online resource for prospective massage therapy students and practicing massage therapists. We provide reviews, tuitions rates, financial aid availability, class start dates, and more to prospective students. We also provide practicing massage therapists with the information they need set up and maintain their practices.