Gail Hendrick Endowment Essay, Spring 2016

(I received notice from the University of Florida College of Education that I had been chosen to be a recipient of the Gail Hendrick Endowment. I was requested to write an essay, describing why I chose special education or what I hope to accomplish in my career as an educator. Let me share with you my current vision.)

I am very grateful for having been chosen as a recipient of the Gail Hendrick Endowment. In addition to the award, it has provided me an opportunity for personal reflection at this point in my graduate studies.

I graduated from the University of Florida in 1997 with a Bachelor of Health Science in Occupational Therapy.  I worked for many years in a variety of settings, appreciating the learning experiences each provided.  As the years went on, I realized my calling was to work specifically with students that have special needs, to assist them in achieving success in a school-based setting.  I love working with the students, each with their own diagnoses and needs, but more significantly, their own individual abilities, hopes and dreams. I appreciate working with my colleagues in the education-related professions as well. I continually learn from the teachers, staff and students in the schools and want to learn more!  When my own son graduated from high school and left home for college (the University of Florida!), the process of his enrollment reminded me how exhilarating it is to grow academically. Within a year, I decided I wanted to go back to school. I researched regarding what programs of study would guide me professionally in assisting students to achieve their potential in school and in life. I considered graduate studies in Occupational Therapy, as I believe this is a strong and holistic profession, which addresses so many aspects of a student’s life. Due to my passion for working in the schools, I also investigated the UF College of Education and found the Teach Well Online Academy.   I learned about the Education-Health Care Transition (Ed-HCT) program and realized I had discovered my answer! My primary role is a health care professional. And yet, I treasure working in the educational setting. I work in middle schools and high schools with students and families that need training and planning to prepare for successful transition to their chosen post-secondary setting. Transition planning must address the students’ educational requirements, their life skills, their health-care awareness, and much more.  The Ed-HCT program is educating me with the methodology I need to understand and address what my students require to achieve those details.

When I was informed about receiving this scholarship, I did some research about Gail Hendrick.  I read a press release from December 2010 when this Endowment was created. University of Florida Special Education professor emeritus Mary Kay Dykes, who had been one of Ms. Hendrick’s teachers, was quoted as saying, “Gail wanted to learn everything she could so she could help her students have a better life”.  I feel that is a perfect description of how I view studying at UF, first as an undergraduate student in Occupational Therapy and now as a graduate student in Special Education.  I hope I would make Ms. Hendrick proud.

Kathleen Harris, OTR/L

BHSOT, UF 1997

Student, UF Train Well Online Academy 2016


Lansford, L. (2010, December 22). $1 million endowment will boost teaching of children with special needs. UF College of Education Press Releases.  Retrieved from


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