Holding back tears, Montana Shermann takes a breath. “Sorry, I haven’t talked about them for a while,” she says. She pulls herself to the present and continues, “I was close with my grandparents who passed away recently. They’re the reason I became a Therapeutic Recreation Assistant. They were a huge part of my life.”
When Shermann speaks about supporting older adults, you can’t help but smile. “You go into older adults’ lives, figure out what they loved and who they are. You build relationships with them and plan different activities and programs they enjoy,” she says. The happiness she exudes is contagious.
A legacy to her grandparents
Shermann credits her grandparents for leading her to a career she loves. Their relationship was strong as her grandpa filled a father-like role in her life.
“He was my teacher. I learned so much from him. He built the house we lived in. He even built a boat. I admired everything he did,” she says.
Over the years, Shermann watched her grandparents transition from an active couple to people whose independence slowly slipped away. She supported them through this change. “I’m glad I could give back because they looked after me, and now I could look after them. I wished I could have been there all day, every day, to help them,” says Shermann.
When her grandpa passed and her grandma moved into care, she gained a deeper understanding of what older adults and their families experience during the final chapter of life.
Shermann recalls, “I saw the toll moving into care took on my grandma. She was depressed as she became more isolated. I wanted to help.” These experiences and the love she felt for her grandparents inspired Shermann’s career as a Therapeutic Recreation Assistant.
Back to school
For someone with Shermann’s passion for older adults, becoming a Therapeutic Recreation Assistantmight seem like an obvious career choice. She had explored interior design, general arts and hospitality, but it was not until a friend showed her an ad for Stenberg’s program that she considered it. She was inspired by the idea of enriching the lives of older adults like her grandparents. She had found her passion.
When Shermann began Stenberg College’s online Therapeutic Recreation Assistant program, she was surprised at the relationships she developed. “Having classmates who enjoy working with older adults made me feel like I belonged. I was so happy to connect with people who are interested in what I’m interested in,” she says.
Throughout the program, Shermann’s confidence grew. “It’s been a huge year for me. My family knew I had doubted myself and was afraid to disappoint people. Now they see I’m confident, happy, and excited for my future,” she says.
Meant to be
Today, Shermann has a purpose. From creating reminiscing kits to leading games of pool-noodle hockey, this is where she is meant to be. She loves planning activities for older adults but more importantly, she loves the relationships she gets to build.
“One lady had no family here but received a letter from a cousin out of town. She couldn’t write anymore. I offered to help and learned so much about her life. She hadn’t talked to her cousin in so long and it felt amazing to help her reconnect,” Shermann says.
Stenberg College instructor, Laurie Chiasson, CTRS, believes Shermann will make a difference as a Therapeutic Recreation Assistant. “She is a genuine person with a natural skillset. She poured so much thought into every assignment. Montana is a calm, steady, kind-hearted student who exudes positivity,” Chiasson says.
When passion meets purpose
Shermann embodies compassion by combining her inherent warmth with the skills she learned in the program. “I’m doing this because I want to make a difference. I’m with people during the last part of their lives. I want to fill their days with what they enjoy, what they love. I want to make their last days really happy,” she says.