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Newtown Woman Named Senior Class Speaker
(Released: 05/14/01)

By Richard Veilleux, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- Sarah Kiernan has always loved children, so when the pre-physical therapy major spent part of her summer observing clinicians at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, she was hooked. After finishing her studies at the University of Connecticut, the NEWTOWN resident now hopes to become a pediatrics specialist in physical therapy.

Before she starts her career, however, she has another important job -- delivering a speech to more than 1,500 graduating seniors at UConn May 19, as the senior class representative. It is an honor earned partially due to her stellar 3.95 grade point average.

Kiernan will discuss success during her moment in the lights.

"I'd like to have them think about success, the notion of what we think it is and whether we've achieved it so far," she says.

Certainly, Kiernan can make a solid case that she has achieved success, as least at this stage in her life. The daughter of Edward and Aida Kiernan of 34 Scudder Road, Newtown, Kiernan, while majoring in an intense field of study, has attained one of the highest grade point averages among seniors at UConn. She also rose to a post on the executive committee of the Student American Physical Therapy Association, and was named student representative to UConn's Student-Faculty Leadership Council. And, in early May, she completed an honors thesis that compared Connecticut's Birth to Three programs with research that discussed parent preferences for such programs.

"The state programs are pretty close," she says. "The literature cites about 40 areas that parents believe should be offered in the programs, and I've found that Connecticut's programs pretty much cover the whole spectrum. The only area that is deficient, although it is offered, also is an area parents themselves don't believe is a major need."

There are about 40 Birth to Three programs in state. The programs help children who have or are identified as likely to develop a physical, mental, developmental, or behavioral disability. Program staff work with the children and their parents in a range of areas, including stress management, educating parents regarding laws and how the parents can be advocates for their children, how to play with or teach children with disabilities, and a host of other areas. Kiernan expects to continue her research in the area when she returns to UConn next year to complete a master's degree in physical therapy, through the School of Allied Health.

Besides her stint at the Children's Medical Center, Kiernan last summer spent seven weeks studying acute care at a hospital in Bangor, Maine, and, this summer, she will devote another seven weeks to her clinical studies, working in the orthopaedics division of Rehabilitation Associates, a large outpatient facility in Stratford.

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