ESD occupational therapy assistant has a “Hart” for home.

February 15, 2020

Jenny Herrygers with Spitler Elementary kindergartner Matthew Courtland.

ESD occupational therapy assistant has a “Hart” for home.

By Kate Krieger, MCP/OCP Staff Writer

West Shore School News is a presentation of the West Shore Educational Service District in coordination with Mason County Press/Oceana County Press.

HART – The old saying “Home is where your heart is” couldn’t be truer for 22 year-old Hart native Jenny Herrygers. A 2015 Hart High School graduate, Herrygers left home and relocated to Muskegon, where she attended Baker College to receive her occupational therapy assistant associate degree and she never really imagined she would be able to return to Oceana County, working in the field that she enjoyed so much.

She has now returned home where she works as an occupational therapy assistant with the West Shore Educational Service District (WSESD).

In high school, she was enrolled in the WSESD’s Career and Technical Education’s Allied Health program held on the campus of West Shore Community College.

“During my senior year, I was in HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America/Future Health Professionals) and I placed first in the competition. That’s kind of what got me jumping into the medical field,” she said.

Herrygers’s, aunt, Amy Weesies, a biology teacher at Hart High School, also was an influence for her to pursue something in the medical world.

“She (Weesies) really went the extra mile,” Herrygers said. “She was an amazing teacher.”

When Herrygers’s grandmother became ill, she used some of her occupational therapy skills with her grandmother and started to really enjoy the field more and more. Although she basically worked in the geriatric field, she always wondered what OT would look from different perspectives and in different environments.

“I really like how multi-layered the field is,” she said. “I moved back home, knowing that there weren’t a lot of jobs in my field, but as they say, ‘All roads lead to home,’ so I came back.

While moving home, Herrygers was also attending Baker College’s online bachelor’s degree program in Health Care Administration. During the fall semester, Herrygers saw a posting listed by the WSESD for an occupational therapy assistant.

“I knew it would be hard to find a job in the area in my field,” she said. “I saw the job at the ESD and thought it would be very hard to get. But, I applied and then got the job.”

Herrygers said everything was starting to make sense and she was so thrilled to be able to come back to her hometown and help support her hometown teachers who inspired her so much.

Occupational therapy assistants and occupational therapists serve students in a variety of different ways, with a lot of the focus on helping students develop better fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, handwriting skills and sensory behavior management skills.

Hart Public Schools, Walkerville Public Schools and Ludington Area School District’s Pere Marquette Early Childhood Center are the locations Herrygers is assigned to this school year. She said she has been having a great time working in education and especially with all the different aged students.

“I like building different relationships with the different ages,” she said. “I have really learned a lot because I don’t have kids yet. I feel like I do connect with the students well and it has been very eye opening. I love the kids.”

Herrygers said she is very excited to be on staff at the ESD and she’s hoping that she may be able to stay with the district for her entire professional life.

“The staff at the ESD has been very welcoming,” she said. “They really help you go forward in your career and help you move up the ranks. Everyone is very encouraging of that there and that’s great to have.”

Hart will always be home for Herrygers and she is excited that she may have already secured her employment there for years to come.

“I’d love to stay here,” she said. “I am looking into getting my master’s degree at some point. I do a lot of volunteer work as well and having a stable job in my hometown will allow me to continue to do a lot of that work also.”

From volunteering with Special Olympics, Tim Tebow’s Night to Shine Prom organization, work in group homes to Camp Sunshine in Newaygo, Herrygers passion for helping others in need in very apparent.

“The relationships I have build and the ones I’m building now have been so important to me,” she said. “When you have the heart and the passion for helping others, it’s hard not to get emotional sometimes. This now all makes sense. I am very lucky.”

The West Shore Educational Service District is funded through the support of taxpayers in Mason, Lake, and Oceana counties.

This story is copyrighted © 2020 all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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