College thanks The Leon Levine Foundation, Rowan County Board of Commissioners & community stakeholders for their tremendous support

SALISBURY, N.C. — Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is proud to announce that the first class of the new occupational therapy assistant program is now in session.

The new occupational therapy assistant (OTA) program is the latest program to be launched at Rowan-Cabarrus and members of the Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board of Directors, leaders from The Leon Levine Foundation, elected officials and community leaders recently attended a tour of the new program’s space.Student explaining occupational therapy assistant roles

“Occupational therapy assistants help patients of all ages and with all different types of disabilities and challenges to participate in everyday life activities. They are patient, reliable and compassionate individuals,” said Amy Mahle, chair of the new OTA program.

The College recognized the need for certified Occupational Therapy Assistants in our region as it explored health occupations and workforce opportunities several years ago. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, occupational therapy assistant positions are projected to increase by 43 percent between 2014-2024. The average annual salary in Rowan and Cabarrus counties is $52,000-$53,800, respectively.

“We are pleased to be one of only seven community colleges in North Carolina that offer the Occupational Therapy Assistant program,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus.

The new program resides in the newly renovated Health and Sciences Building (Building 600) which faces Interstate 85, funded in part by the 2010 Rowan County bond and a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

“I hope that you’ll see how the new facility and equipment lends itself to innovative teaching and learning approaches that will help enhance the overall student experience by supporting student engagement, persistence, and success,” said Dr. Wendy Barnhardt, dean of health and education programs. “Occupational therapy is a vibrant, growing profession, and students can look forward to dynamic careers working in multiple settings with people of all ages.”

Instructor teaching student about occupational therapy tools

The Occupational Therapy Assistant curriculum prepares individuals to work under the supervision of a registered/licensed occupational therapist in screening, assessing, planning, and implementing treatment and documenting progress for clients receiving occupational therapy services.

“Healthcare in our region will be enhanced as our students train on state-of-the-art equipment, graduate and enter the workforce as Occupational Therapy Assistants,” said Dr. Michael Quillen, vice president of academic programs.

Graduates of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program will be eligible to sit for the National Certification Examination for the Occupational Therapy Assistant, administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Employment opportunities include hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, long-term/extended care facilities, sheltered workshops, schools, home health programs, and community programs.

“We are so excited that the program began this fall and are excited that they will be working in our community throughout their clinical work and after graduation,” said Spalding.

Under the supervision of an occupational therapist, this health care professional focuses on providing treatments that will assist disabled people to function independently in their homes and their communities, and help people regain skills lost due to injury.

“We are excited to show you the new space for this program and allow you to see a few examples of how our students are using problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, compassion, a desire to work with patients and teamwork to achieve their goals,” said Mahle.

The students will be trained as generalists so that they are qualified to work in any setting after graduation. After completing their coursework, they will sit for a national exam to become board certified and then apply to individual states for licensure.

Earlier this year, the College’s Foundation exceeded its first ever multi-million dollar fundraising campaign, raising a total of $8,087,387. Part of the campaign’s success included a $300,000 challenge grant from The Leon Levine Foundation for the support of healthcare education.

“I can’t thank The Leon Levine Foundation enough for their confidence in our ability to meet this challenge and secure the funds we need for healthcare education,” said Spalding.

The Leon Levine Foundation offered $300,000 to the College’s Foundation for healthcare education if the healthcare education gifts within the Foundation’s Building a More Prosperous Community Major Gifts Campaign reached $1.2 million for healthcare education by May 31, 2016. The Rowan-Cabarrus Foundation reached its $1.2 million healthcare education goal with the generous support of numerous community members and organizations like Novant Health and the Rowan County Commission, whose recent donations helped the campaign meet the challenge grant’s goals.

“Being able to purchase the latest medical equipment, on which our students are trained, is an important factor in their ability to gain employment and our commitment to deliver a skilled healthcare workforce currently in demand by our local healthcare providers,” said Carl M. Short, chair of the Rowan-Cabarrus Board of Trustees.

Additionally, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners generously allocated $65,000 to the College for healthcare lab facilities.

The program, with more than 60 qualified applicants, accepted a class of 20 students. The average age is 31, with a range of students from 19-51 years of age.

“Students told us that they chose this program for many reasons – from wanting to be successful and becoming someone who can help others to knowing that they have an end goal as an occupational therapy assistant in only two short years,” said Mahle.

Occupational therapy focuses on functioning in the daily “occupations” of life. Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people of all ages who are recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing support for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.

“We are excited to start this new program and are so pleased that these students are here, ready to make a difference within our institution and within the community,” said Short. “We can’t wait to see them be successful!”

For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, please visit or call 704-216-RCCC (7222). The College is accepting applications for the spring term with classes beginning January 8, 2018.