Alumni Spotlight

It’s Never Too Late

Joe Kersey ’12 COTA/L


Joe Kersey ’12 was drawn to Philadelphia University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies (CPS), which responds to the needs of working professionals. He earned his Associate of Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant Studies. CPS classes are offered twice a week in the evenings with occasional Saturday’s for eight weeks. The Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program was very accommodating to Kersey’s schedule. He is currently enrolled in PhilaU’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science Completion Program in Health Sciences.

Kersey was a member of the inaugural class of OTA students. According to Jeanne Coviello OTR/L, Academic Clinical Education Coordinator for the Occupational Therapy Assistant Studies Program, Kersey exhibited a desire to learn and was eager to develop his skills and knowledge for all things related to occupational therapy. “Joe is enthusiastic and exhibits a commitment to serve the profession through involvement in professional associations and the development of future OTAs as a member of the OTA adjunct faculty,” noted Coviello.

The OTA program was life-changing for Kersey. He was nervous and unsure of his academic capabilities because he would be experiencing college-level course work for the first time as an adult. Faculty and staff were supportive and offered Kersey mentoring and tutoring which he found exceedingly valuable.

Kersey, who began the program in his late thirties, was several years removed from a classroom environment. In fact, Kersey was a teenager the last time he stepped into a classroom. PhilaU offers its CPS students preparatory workshop courses such as information technology and writing that serve as a refresher to students before they enter the program. The OTA program director and advisors provided Kersey with extensive support throughout his time at PhilaU and continue to guide him academically, personally and professionally.

Kersey is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA/L) at Genesis HealthCare Services, where he has worked for a little over a decade. He started as a Certified Nursing Assistant and worked in that position for two years. Kersey then worked as a Restorative Aide for ten years. Although he has been working for the same health care company for 13 years, transitioning into different roles has been gratifying and challenging.

There are many challenges Kersey has encountered while working in the field but his greatest challenge has been facing his own fears. He grew up in Camden, N.J. living in impoverished conditions. Kersey was alone and homeless as a teenager and eventually dropped out of high school. He became a teenage father and by the age of 21, was a father of four children.

In his early twenties, Kersey began working in health care. His position as a nursing assistant did not require a higher education degree at the time. In 2010, Kersey built up the courage to obtain his GED and later that year, he was accepted in to the OTA program at PhilaU. Kersey was awarded a full scholarship by his employer due to the dedication and commitment he demonstrated at Genesis HealthCare Services.

Kersey enjoys working with patients. There is a new story to be told with every patient that he meets. Many of his patients arrive to the facility with pain, weakness, sickness or anxieties. “I make a conscious effort to provide not only health services but compassion and respect to every single individual I encounter,” said Kersey. Helping individuals in their time of need is therapeutic for him and rewarding. “It gives me a great sense of purpose, especially when I need to put life into perspective.”

Motivation, independence and progression have guided Kersey throughout his career. “All three of these core components are my own personal ingredients resulting in an appetite for acceleration and a recipe of my success thus far,” explained Kersey. He is motivated to continue to strive for excellence and surpass his own expectations. He treasures the liberty to live his life as free as possible and hopes to continue to grow personally, professionally and academically. In 2013, Kersey was presented with the Ellen Kolodner Legacy Alumnus Award for his dedication to the profession of occupational therapy and to the PhilaU OTA program.

In addition to the time and dedication Kersey puts into his career, he also is involved with several industry boards. Currently, he serves on the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association (POTA) board as the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) liaison and a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). He is also an evening teacher’s assistant at PhilaU. He enjoys spending time with his children and occasionally volunteers and speaks to inner city youth and the homeless in Camden.

Kersey strongly believes that overcoming adversity is a lifelong experience, not a final destination. He encourages all to embrace life and its challenges with passion and grateful humility. “The hunt for success in life whether it’s personal, academic or professional, may come later than you expect or planned,” noted Kersey. “But it is certainly never too late!”