• Rachel Hartwell

    Child Behavioral Therapist by Day, Marine Corps Servicewoman on Weekends

    Rachel Hartwell lives many lives of service well beyond her 23 years. She is a divorced single mother to a 4-year-old boy, serves as a Marine in the Reserves, and now enjoys a thriving career as a behavioral therapist for children with disabilities.

    “I grew up in love with my country,” Rachel said. “I always knew that in one way or another I wanted to give back.” For 6 years, Rachel has been a field radio operator in the Marine Corps. She is currently in the Reserves and serves on weekends and several weeks throughout the year.

    While Rachel loves being a Marine, she also wanted to start a civilian career. She initially went back to school while she was an active Marine, with the goal of finishing her degree to work with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) servicemembers. Rachel thought that a psychology degree would be a good fit. However, she found herself more and more interested in her behavioral analysis classes, and gravitated toward working with children with disabilities to fulfill her need of helping others.

    “Kaplan University has a great focus on applied behavior analysis (ABA) in the Bachelor of Science in Psychology program, and I feel there seems to be a need for behavioral therapists,” Rachel said. She found this out first hand. Rachel didn’t even need to conduct a job search to find a position in her field. One of the top local ABA agencies found her resume posted online and contacted her. The agency supervisor told her that they have difficulty finding people with an ABA focus in their studies. Rachel was hired in a training position 3 months before her graduation. When she earned her degree she was promoted to her current position as an ABA tutor therapist, working with special needs children in their homes. She also went from Active Duty to the Marine Reserves.

    “I love, love, love my job!” Rachel said. “The children I work with are so special. It is wonderful to see them grow and evolve under my care. Even the simplest tasks can seem so daunting to some of these kids. When they accomplish something, even just tying their shoes, their confidence soars and they can take on new tasks. It is very fulfilling and rewarding.”

    Rachel feels that Kaplan University prepared her well for her position. “As I entered the field, I was experiencing what I was learning in school come to life at my job. It helped me understand the theories much better. It all made a lot more sense.”

    A very busy and self-confessed “Type A” personality, Rachel knew that a traditional college environment wouldn’t fit in her schedule. “Clearly I have a lot going on in my life. I want to squeeze every minute I have out of my day, and I didn’t want to waste precious time commuting to class when I could be spending time with my son—or studying.” Rachel was very happy with her decision to attend Kaplan University. She especially enjoyed learning from her professors and liked how they brought their lessons to life by using real-world stories. “Reading a textbook about behavioral issues just doesn’t cut it,” Rachel said. “There are so many different scenarios, you really have to talk about your experiences to convey the material well to people not familiar with the field. My professors did a great job of breaking down the scientific definitions and creating their own real-life scenarios.”

    As she started her education journey at Kaplan University, Rachel was concerned that the online experience wouldn’t allow for the personal interaction that she really enjoys. “I was so wrong! In each of my classes, there were certain people that I started to recognize and learn from, and I looked forward to reading their posts. I became friends with a few of them, and I was so excited to finally meet them at graduation. We still keep in touch.”

    So whether she’s “roughing it” in rigorous training on weekends in the Reserves, working with special needs children helping improve their lives, or spending time with her son, Rachel feels like she is leading a fulfilled life. “I just turned 23 and I have a fantastic career in a growing field.”

    Rachel plans on returning to Kaplan University to earn her master’s degree in psychology with an applied behavioral analysis specialization and would like to eventually become a certified ABA therapist at her current agency.

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