Michigan Association of Public Employees

MAPE Business Agent Chad Trussler presents Sophia Costa with her 2024 Carl Parsell Scholarship.

By Jennifer Gomori, MAPE Editor

Sophia Costa knows the importance of a good education to achieve her career goal of becoming a physical therapist, but she’s also well aware of the costs and so thankful to be one of the 2024 Carl Presell Scholarship recipients.

“It will take some of the financial stress off of going into this next semester,” Costa said of the scholarship.

The daughter of MAP member Andrea Costa, a Sterling Heights Police Department Technical Secretary, and Larry Costa was formerly recognized with her $2,500 scholarship during the 34th Annual Carl Parsell Memorial Golf Outing on June 13, 2024.

MAPE Business Agent Chad Trussler (left) and MAPE Director Jerald James (right) congratulate Carl Parsell Scholar Sophia Costa (second from left) with her mother Andrea Costa, a Sterling Heights Police Department Technical Secretary.

“I was very excited and pleasantly surprised. This is my first major scholarship other than what I received from Wayne State for transferring,” Costa said. “It’s being put to good use for sure ‒ it’s very helpful.”

Costa, a 22-year-old Sterling Heights resident, graduated from Stevenson High School in June 2020 with a 4.0 GPA. She earned her associate’s degree in Exercise Science from Macomb Community College, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a 3.94 GPA in May 2023. She transferred credits to Wayne State University and began her bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science with a minor in Sport and Exercise Psychology in the fall of 2023. Costa just completed her junior year of college at Wayne State while maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA.

“It adds another layer of stress, coming from Macomb (Community College) to Wayne (with higher tuition),” she said. “The scholarship gives me some more piece of mind. Like a lot of students, I would like to avoid loan debt as much as possible. I’m expecting to graduate, depending on when I schedule an internship, either December 2024 or May 2025.”

It’s not just the next year of college Costa is concerned about as she plans for her future career. “The Carl Parsell Scholarship would help fund the remaining time I have in my undergraduate education,” she wrote in her scholarship application. “Achieving my bachelor’s in Exercise and Sport Science is one step towards my goal of getting accepted into a Doctorate of Physical Therapy program and becoming a licensed physical therapist.”

After completing her bachelor’s degree, she plans to seek a full-time position in the physical therapy field. “I want to take some time to work and save a little bit before I commit to a program of that caliber,” she said. “I also think it’s a good opportunity to build your resume and build your experience regardless.”

Costa’s love of sports propelled her into her associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs. She played softball through City of Sterling Heights and Saint Malachy Church (Sterling Heights) recreational leagues, and participated in group and private gymnastics lessons. She was a member of the Davis Junior High School and Stevenson High School Cheerleading teams. “During high school, I was an active member of the Varsity Cheerleading team where we achieved a State Runner Up and State Finals Title,” Costa wrote. “In my college years, I have locally participated in pickle ball and have supported clubs at Wayne State such as Gift of Life by confirming my status in the organ donor registry.”

“I grew up in sports and never had any serious injuries, but definitely could have used physical therapy. I didn’t know that was an option,” she said. “I saw a chiropractor and had taken advice from teammates and coaches and it wasn’t until I got into Exercise Science, that I learned other options.”

She’s been working her way through college, first at Fuddruckers restaurant for 5 years during high school and her first year of college. More recently, she earned income while gaining valuable experience working as a Physical Therapy Technician at HealthQuest Physical Therapy in Macomb for just over a year and as a Physical Therapy Aide at Clegg and Guest Physical Therapy in Sterling Heights for nearly two years.

“I started to work as a technician and I felt like it combines my interest of athletics, physical activity, and health and helping people have a better quality of life,” Costa said. “Techs do exercises and any modalities, correct patients’ form … any kind of advancements progressing on exercises. The position is on the job training. It’s a good option to share the knowledge I have and help people.”

Her busy schedule has come at a cost though, limiting Costa’s free time. “Given my dual employment and full-time enrollment in school, there have not been community activities that I have been able to participate in,” she wrote. “I am planning on volunteering through Wayne State’s athletics department in the Fall 2024 semester.”

“It’s a ‘good’ busy. It’s a lot, but I can’t say I have much to complain about,” she said in May. “Currently, I’m only working at Clegg and Guest part-time, but at the time of my application I was working all last year at both places and as full-time student. At HealthQuest, I worked with adults, high school students and geriatric patients. Clegg is primarily geriatric. Overall, I’m still working on patient strength and improving their daily activity to get them back to a better quality of life.”

Costa’s dedication to her future profession is evident and she is extremely thankful to be awarded one of two 2024 Carl Parsell Scholarships to help her achieve her dream career.

“It’s definitely very helpful for college kids to have opportunities like these … as students work through their undergraduate degrees,” she said. “While it is important for college students to pursue scholarship opportunities, it is equally as important to advocate for proper funding for education so that achieving a degree needed for a career is not so financially draining.”