GC Massage Therapy Program Prepares Students for Healing Arts Careers
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GC Massage Therapy Program Prepares Students for Healing Arts Careers

Gaston College Massage Therapy Program Prepares Students for Careers in the Healing Arts

The Massage Therapy program at Gaston College gives students valuable skills, self-confidence, and a way to earn a living while contributing to others.

Shelby Stowe - Therapeutic Massage

Shelby Stowe earned her Therapeutic Massage diploma in May 2016.

Shelby Stowe had been working at a job that she felt held no future or opportunity for advancement. She knew she needed a change and decided to go back to school. She was drawn to the Massage Therapy program at Gaston College because it would set her on the path to a lucrative career through which she could help people. The fact that she could earn a Therapeutic Massage diploma in just 40 credit hours and then start the process to secure a North Carolina State License for Massage and Bodywork was also appealing.

Stowe entered the program in August 2015 and began taking the required courses which included content in human anatomy and physiology, therapeutic massage, ethical and legal issues, business practices, nutrition and psychology. She was one of the top students in her class, both academically and because of her enthusiastic attitude. “Shelby was a positive influence with her kind, gentle spirit that encouraged others to be the best they could be in and out of the classroom,” said Monica Phillips, Coordinator of Therapeutic Massage. “I always looked forward to seeing her smiling face.”

Through the Gaston College Massage Therapy program, Stowe was able to help someone very important to her – her brother. The program curriculum trains students for direct client-care settings in which they will provide manipulation, methodical pressure, friction, and kneading of the body for maintaining wellness or treating alterations in wellness throughout the lifespan. Students need hands-on experience in these procedures and Stowe’s brother allowed her to practice on him. He had been severely injured in an automobile accident in 2012 and still suffered with pain from those injuries. Through massage therapy, Stowe was able to improve her brother’s range of motion and relieve some of his pain.

Stowe earned her Therapeutic Massage diploma in May 2016. Now that she has completed the licensing process, she plans to start out by working at a franchise location to build experience working directly with clients. She also will take advantage of CEUs (Continuing Education Units) to stay current and learn new massage techniques throughout the course of her career. “The field of therapeutic massage is always growing and changing,” she said. “I hope to have my own practice within the next year or two and to one day get into research and develop my own patented techniques.”

Stowe credits the Gaston College Massage Therapy program with giving her the knowledge that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to. “The massage program is a great part of Gaston College and the faculty and staff are very helpful,” she said. “Massage has changed my life; I truly feel like I am on the right path to better myself and help my community. I didn’t know much about massage when I began, but when I see the healing art and the way it improves life for so many people, I am honored to call myself a Licensed Massage and Bodywork Therapist.”

Jason Rudder - Therapeutic Massage

Jason Rudder received his diploma in Therapeutic Massage in May 2016.

Jason Rudder received his diploma in Therapeutic Massage from Gaston College in May 2016. He graduated with honors, having entered the Massage Therapy program in August 2015. Although a career in massage was not in his original plans, he feels sure that he is now where he is supposed to be.

Rudder moved to the United States from his native Trinidad in 2005. That year, he completed his senior year of high school at Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. He then attended college at East Stroudsburg University and went on to complete his MBA at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. He played soccer throughout his school years and, before his final semester in his MBA program, he traveled to Brazil to try out for a professional team. Although he did not make the team, he considers the trip to be the pinnacle of his athletic endeavors.

Charlotte’s reputation as a financial center drew Rudder to North Carolina in August 2014 to pursue job opportunities in the area. When an appropriate job was not forthcoming, Rudder considered massage therapy, which had been a long-time interest of his, and he began looking into various area schools that offered massage therapy programs. He had friends who attended Gaston College and assured him that it was a good institution. His research into the College’s massage program and the school’s convenient location convinced Rudder to apply, just five days before the application deadline. “The ease with which I was able to get everything completed and submitted also convinced me that I was taking the right step,” he said. “The interview process with Monica Phillips [Coordinator of the Therapeutic Massage program] was very professional but was also straightforward, and once I was granted permission to enter the program, that was all I needed to push for it to happen.”

Despite Rudder’s previous interest in massage therapy, his business background had not prepared him for the program’s curriculum. “When I first started the program,” he said, “I swore that the professors were speaking a foreign language because all the information was so new to me. Once I took the time to engage the material, and really applied myself, I started to understand the subject matter more and even used it in general conversations. I had a better understanding of my body and was able to educate those around me about theirs. That was fascinating to me.”

The support and encouragement of the Gaston College faculty and staff, and that of his classmates, instilled in Rudder the confidence that he can achieve his goals as long as he puts his mind to it. “They went above and beyond to embrace me and cheer me on, both in the good times and the bad times,” he said. “I learned that even though you think you can do it by yourself, it’s not wrong to ask for help. Completing this program was a struggle on almost every level. There were days when I wasn’t sure I would make it to class, or complete my assignments, or pass the tests, but through the grace of God, I did every single one.”

In addition to his Massage Therapy instructors, Monica Phillips, Sarah Ross, and Kristyn Brazzell, who were so supportive, Rudder is extremely appreciative for the people he encountered while participating in the work study program at Gaston College. He worked with Julia Allen, the College’s Chief Development Officer and Executive Director of the Gaston College Foundation, and her staff members, Emily Dalton and Luke Upchurch. “Working with them was a joy,” he said, “and it allowed me to meet a lot of influential people at Gaston College.” Among them were Dr. Patricia Skinner, President of the College, with whom Rudder had many “spirited conversations,” and others in the Administration, Financial Aid, and Work Study offices. Rudder counts Jenell Barnett, his admissions advisor, as one of his favorites as she helped him throughout his time on campus and continues to be a trusted friend. Rudder also worked closely with the Student Government Association (SGA) during his tenure as the President of the Massage Therapy Club.

Instructor Sarah Ross, a 2007 graduate of the Gaston College Massage Therapy program and a practicing massage therapist, was impressed by Jason’s dedication to the massage program. “Jason was a great student. He strived hard throughout the program,” she said. “Having an MBA and being an international student made Jason unique and his interest in the massage profession is phenomenal. He has had to overcome obstacles and has done so admirably. As a former student, I understand the trials of massage school and it’s an honor to watch our students work hard and overcome the obstacles and become successful!”

Now that he has graduated, Rudder has looked into many options for practicing his profession. He plans to have his own business eventually, but intends to start out by working for a company or chain. Now close to 30 years old, Rudder has no immediate plans to further his education because, as he says, he has been in the classroom since he was 2-and-a- half years old. However, he does not rule out the possibility of going on for another advanced degree in the future.

Rudder passed his MBLEx (Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination) in September and will be required to take continuing education courses in order to keep his license current. He is planning to focus his practice on deep tissue massage, sports massage, and some other modalities that will allow him to better market himself.

“I am grateful for the opportunity that I had to attend Gaston College. I am also grateful to all the people that aided in getting me to where I am now,” he said. “I thank God for the classmates that I had and I wish them the best in their respective futures, even though I plan to keep in touch with them. I hope that the Gaston College Massage Therapy program will continue to move forward and continue to educate more students—therapeutic massage is a growing industry and a necessity that people are yet to fully understand. I look forward to helping people feel better through therapeutic massage.”

Through the Therapeutic Massage program at Gaston College, students can earn a Therapeutic Massage Diploma, an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Therapeutic Massage, or certification as a Therapeutic Massage Practitioner. For more information about the Gaston College Therapeutic Massage program, go to www.gaston.edu and search for Therapeutic Massage, or contact Monica Phillips at 704-922-2270 or Phillips.Monica@gaston.edu.

The first day for new student advising and registration for the Spring 2017 semester is November 9, 2016. Spring semester classes begin on January 9, 2017. To learn about applying to Gaston College and the registration process, go to www.gaston.edu and click on How to Apply.

The Gaston College Massage Therapy program offers clinics that are open to the public on select Saturdays throughout the fall. The Saturday clinic dates are:

  • October 29
  • November 5 and 12
  • December 3

Appointments are available at 9:15 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m., and 2:15 p.m. The cost for the clinic is $25 for the general public, and $20 for seniors 65 years of age and older.

The clinic is located in the David Belk Cannon Health Education Building, Room 190, on the Dallas campus of Gaston College, at 201 Highway 321 South, Dallas, N.C. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 704-922-2278.

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