Occupational Therapy PhD Student Receives Benjamin Franklin Lever Scholarship

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Brett Polaski, a doctoral student in occupational therapy, volunteers for a local non-profit association, Achilles Arkansas.

Brett Polaski, a first-year graduate student in the Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program, received the Benjamin Franklin Lever Tuition Fellowship.

This highly competitive award is given to qualified students who reflect the university’s commitment to academics and diversity.

Polaski graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2014. He first moved to northwest Arkansas to work as a medical device sales representative, but he decided that he would be happier in health care.

“I wanted to have the ability to directly influence the lives of others,” he said. “I’ve always been the type to put others first, and when I stumbled upon occupational therapy I realized that it ticks a lot of the boxes when it comes to what I believe in.

“I believe that as human beings we should all have the same opportunities and access to the things that make us unique and bring us fulfillment, health and well-being in our lives.”

Occupational therapy helps improve the lives of people of all abilities and backgrounds, he said. “I am passionate about creating a more inclusive and equitable world, starting with my community, and I believe my occupational therapy degree will provide me with the tools to achieve this goal,” he added.

The Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program is jointly offered by the U of A College of Education and Health Professions and the University of Arkansas College of Health Professions for Medical Sciences and UAMS Northwest Campus at Fayetteville.

Polaski is a regular volunteer and treasurer of a local nonprofit organization, Achilles Arkansas. The organization’s mission is to “promote the health and well-being of individuals of all abilities by running, walking, rolling or by any other means necessary,” he said.

Volunteers help raise funds to purchase suitable sports equipment such as handbikes, prostheses and braces, and to cover race registration fees. The organization holds weekly meetings at Lake Fayetteville to provide a physically active, fun and inclusive environment for everyone. “This organization has been a big part of my life for the past two years and is very much in line with my goals as a future occupational therapist,” said Polaski.

Polaski called the Benjamin Franklin Lever Tuition Award a life-changing and said it would allow him to pursue opportunities for others that would previously have been out of reach after graduation.

“Representing approximately 10% of men in the field of occupational therapy, I intend to promote the profession to people of all genders, races and ethnicities to better meet the needs of the diverse populations that we will one day serve. as clinicians. ” he said.

About Benjamin Franklin Levier: A native of Pine Bluff, Lever was the first African American student to graduate from the Fayetteville campus. After graduating from the Tuskegee Institute in 1938, he obtained a Master of Science in Agronomy in 1951, a Master of Education in Educational Administration in 1955, and an Advanced Studies Diploma in 1964, all from the U of A.

Lever has taught at Arkansas AM&N College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), was principal of several Arkansas public schools, and dean of Shorter College. He died in 1980.

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