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An Unexpected Path from Manufacturing to Physical Therapist Assistant

January 8, 2020

When his wife asked, do you want to do this for the rest of your life? Shawn Campbell knew the answer was a resounding no. Shawn had worked in manufacturing for 17 years when new ownership was poised to push him back onto the shop floor. At a crossroads, Shawn decided to return to school and he chose Blackhawk Technical College.

“I didn’t do the greatest in high school; I wasn’t very motivated,” said Shawn. Thanks to a family connection, he secured a job in manufacturing and thought that would tide him over until he had some better direction. “The money was always great there, but I wanted more; I wanted to help people.”

Shawn Campbell, Physical Therapist Assistant Student

That desire to help others, and the encouragement and support of his wife, led Shawn to the Physical Therapist Assistant program at Blackhawk. But Shawn was nervous. He had been out of school for 18 years. The PTA program accepts limited students each year, and he knew he would need to work extremely hard to make the cut.

“After my first month of school, my head was spinning and I thought this is crazy. However, once I had some success I knew I could do it,” said Shawn. He had to overcome self-doubt while second-guessing if he had made the right decision to return to school.

After a very successful first semester, Shawn petitioned for entrance into the PTA program in Feb. 2019. Determination, hard work and perseverance earned Shawn a seat in the fall 2019 PTA cohort.

“I kind of blew my own mind with how well I did. If you put the effort and motivation behind what you want, you can succeed in anything.”

“I’ve always wanted to be something that could help make a difference in people’s lives. I appreciate the one-on-one connection you can make with an individual and hopefully improve their quality of life.”

The connection goes beyond patient care. Shawn spoke of the connection between the members of his PTA cohort. “We work together each and every day, hours on end, which has created great relationships. It has turned into quite the school family.”

Shawn initially chose Blackhawk because it was close to home, affordable and had the right program. What he has received is a supportive group of classmates, faculty and support personnel to help him on his journey. “Blackhawk has so much to offer that many people don’t take advantage of — it is a great atmosphere where everyone is there to help you reach your goals.”

After graduation, Shawn plans to seek work as a physical therapist assistant as well as continue his education. Shawn lives in Janesville with his wife (who is also a graduate of Blackhawk) and their five children. “I get choked up when I talk about my wife. She is extremely supportive and I definitely would not be able to do this without her.” Shawn and his oldest two daughters will all walk across the stage next year as they graduate from high school and he graduates from Blackhawk.

Listen to Shawn talk about his experience in the Physical Therapist Assistant program: 

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