This story is reprinted from The Fresno State Alumni Association as written by Marisa Mata. Originally published in the November 2016 issue of the Fresno State Alumni Association Newsletter.

“[My favorite part of my job is] watching the progression for somebody. Say they start off at a certain level, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally, and then they progress to where they’re more physically capable, stronger, they’re more confident, more social — seeing that progression and being able to provide the opportunity to give them that progression, [that’s my favorite part],” said Rebecca Bershtel, a 2005 Recreation Administration alumna.

Bershtel (left) helps a patient with horeseback riding, courtesy of Shutterfly

About a year after graduating, Bershtel became a recreational therapist at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, where she has now worked for 10 years, helping people recover from physical ailments while indulging in her love of the outdoors as coordinator of the Adaptive Outdoor Adventure Program.

“We work with a population here with physical disabilities: strokes, spinal cord injuries, spinal injuries, multiple sclerosis, surgeries, amputations — and in particular I work with strokes in the in-patient unit. Our goal with the patients is to get them home safely and give them as much information we can. It’s a little more tailored to them, [but] we do art and games, social activities, adaptive sports, community outings, community reintroduction, and a lot of that is interdisciplinary with physical therapy.”

In the stroke unit, Bershtel typically works with patients that are in their 50s or 60s, but she also works with patients ranging from their 20s into their 40s in the Adaptive Outdoor Adventure Program.

Bershtel (right) kayaks with the Outdoor Adventure Program

“It’s a neat program; we do all kinds of things in the community — therapeutic cycling, therapeutic horseback riding, adaptive fishing, rowing, kayaking, we do overnight trips, we go to Mammoth and Big Bear — and that program is for any in-patient.”

“I like to be outdoors; I like to be active. I always knew I wanted to work with people, but I didn’t want to be in a teaching setting, limited with my environment. I got a flyer in the mail for therapeutic recreation at Fresno State, and it showed people with disabilities rock climbing, white water rafting, doing things out in the community. I was really intrigued; I contacted the professors in the department, started taking a couple of classes and I fell in love with it.”

From the Outdoor Adventure Program’s Camp Fire Experience, courtesy of Shutterfly

While a student, Bershtel worked at a summer camp in Big Bear to get her required volunteer hours, and met her husband there. The couple stayed in southern California while Bershtel completed an internship, and decided to make their home there after she graduated.

“I really love it here. I definitely see myself staying in this field. Whether I end up going to part-time or staying full-time while I’m raising a family I’m not sure, because another goal of mine is to raise my own family. And I’m about 20 weeks along right now with our first [child].”

View the original story at the LINK.