James Madison University

Alumni Highlight - Kendall Drake


Bachelor of Science, Kinesiology (Exercise Science), class of 2017
AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor

Kendall  Drake

Undergraduate Practicum and Internship

I began undergrad at JMU in the fall of 2013 declared as a Kinesiology major and set on grad school for physical therapy. Junior year I completed my practicum at Sunnyside Retirement Community in Harrisonburg, and fell in love working with the geriatric population. I had actually started off as a volunteer through activities and later found out the site could be approved for practicum and/or internship hours so I got pretty lucky with that. Here, the setting was both inpatient and outpatient and patients were typically post surgery or post stroke given the population. Following the physical therapy path I was set on, I later completed my internship at The Center for Hand and Physical Therapy which is also located in Harrisonburg. This site was strictly outpatient and clients ranged in all ages and conditions. It was senior year when I started second guessing physical therapy and if it was really the right choice for me. Since I wasn’t entirely set on grad school anymore, I took a full time job and went straight to work following graduation.

Job Experience

I had a few job offers, including one at Sunnyside Retirement Community as a fitness assistant, but given the pros and cons of each offer, I accepted a full time position as a Rehab Technician at a hospital in my hometown, Portsmouth, Virginia. Working in the hospital was absolutely nothing like I expected it to be. I worked alongside physical, occupational, and speech therapists. I completed audit charges every morning, making sure each therapist was billing correct evaluations and treatment sessions for patients. I scheduled all outpatient modified barium swallow tests for the speech therapists, answered the office phone, and went through range of motion and basic exercises with patients unable to receive skilled therapy. I assisted therapists with treatments on every floor throughout the hospital. This included everything from ortho, neuro, psych, ICU, radiology, etc. I had one physical therapist in particular who took me under her wing and really helped shape me into a young professional and pushed me to form that thick layer of skin. Since her specialty was ICU, we usually tag teamed the toughest, most intense caseloads and a strong mentality was definitely necessary for the things we saw on a daily basis. Despite the stress, I loved the hospital setting and enjoyed having a job where majority of the patients were apart of the geriatric population. I have also had a particular interest in working more with cardiac patients so I decided to apply to Sentara College of Health Sciences for the echocardiography program they offer. 

Kendall  Drake

Meanwhile, in the midst of applying to the program, I was also applying for other jobs. I didn't mind my job at the hospital, but I was overqualified and discouraged that I hadn't quite yet landed a job that required my degree. Just this past February (2018), I was on indeed and saw a part time job as a fitness assistant. Again, it wasn't a job that required my degree but I figured extra money for school wouldn't hurt. I applied not thinking much of it and immediately got an email back. Come to find out, a full time fitness and wellness specialist was available as well and the director was beyond impressed with my education and work experience. She also knew the fitness director at Sunnyside Retirement Community who had offered me a job following graduation. Although I had accepted the job the hospital instead, the fitness director at Sunnyside had nothing but good things to say about me when she was contacted as a reference (such a small world and connections are key!!). I had a phone interview the next day and an in person interview the following week. Since March I have been at my current job as a Fitness and Wellness Specialist at a retirement community in Norfolk, Virginia. I went ahead and got my AFAA GFI certification (I still have my study guide from Jana’s Kin 422 class and it saved my life!!) and now lead fitness classes that range from mind and muscle, seated strength and cardio, balance boot camp, core fusion, and more. I also do one on one training with residents, help with fitness orientations for new residents, assist with the monthly wellness calendar and articles, and I am currently designing a Couch to 5K program for the residents who wish to join in the Coastal Virginia Walk to End Alzheimer’s this upcoming September, 2018.

I have currently been at my job for three months now and I am so happy with how everything worked out. I have recently been accepted into the echocardiography program I mentioned earlier but have decided to push back my start date to August 2019. I couldn’t bear to leave my job just yet and am excited to see where this position takes me. I don’t know what the future holds but I am so grateful for the path that led me to where I am today. I owe a HUGE part of that to the JMU Kinesiology program and all the wonderful staff that has helped me along the way.