Ke’La Porter is graduating from WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences with a degree in athletic training. As a high school student in Clayton, N.C., Ke’La played basketball and ran track, until suffering an injury during a basketball game. While undergoing physical therapy to treat her injury, Ke’La decided she’d like to become a physical therapist. However, when the high school brought an athletic trainer on board to work with her, Ke’La was introduced to sports medicine and realized she’d found her calling.
“Ke’La remembers, “School always came easy to me, so, even though my parents never went to college, in my head I always knew I would go," Ke'La says. "It was never even a question. But then came the issue of finances. I didn’t really have the money for college.” That, however, was not stopping her. She didn’t attend school for a full semester after high school, but instead, spent her time searching for resources and applying for scholarships. When it seemed like nothing was working and that her plan for college might have to be rethought, her step-mother stepped in.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Ke’La said. “My step-mom came into my room and said I’m going to do it for you.” Ke’La’s jaw dropped. “She said, ‘I believe in you and I believe in what you’re going for,’ so she signed on the dotted line, co-signed my loan, and I came to Western.”
In April, Ke’La aced the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Board of Certification Exam, crediting her clinical experiences at various venues, including two high schools and three universities, with her ability to do so. One of those internships was at NC State University where she worked from 4am until 2pm before heading out to her part-time job.
“The first football game at NC State, I had to spine board someone. I was out on the field with no time to think, just react. We’d done it so much in practice it was instinct, so I wasn’t even nervous. I knew exactly what to do. This was exactly what I’d been practicing for-- we spent a month doing this in class. The game was on TV, so I was able to go back and watch it and I realized that it all gone super smoothly, but that was the first time I recognized that thousands of people had been watching me. It was crazy.”
During her time at WCU, Ke’La has volunteered for many events related to athletic training, including fitness assessments and local sporting events. She also plays a vital role in the peer tutoring program; students and the tutoring director rave about her ability to teach the material. But her favorite of all her volunteer work is the Valley of the Lilies Half Marathon.
“For one of my rotations, I was at a PT clinic and some of the patients I worked with were running, so it was so cool to see them actually able to run in the race. They would see me there and come up to say thank you. And then Valley of the Lilies supports our program as well –I’m presenting at a conference in Las Vegas and they’re paying for our hotels, so it’s just a really cool experience for those of us who volunteer.”
That presentation in Las Vegas isn’t just any presentation but the culmination of her exemplary research. Ke’La conducted a research study on ultrasound heating temperatures, and has already presented at the North Carolina Athletic Trainers’ Association. She’ll also be presenting at the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Athletic Trainers’ Association Annual Meeting.
“Research is kind of the basis for athletic training and I knew it was a big deal. Before I started researching I thought to myself, I might hate it, might love it so let’s find out. But it’s been so rewarding. The work I’ve done makes me appreciate others’ research. And now I’m going to grad school for a research-based program in Kentucky,” she says.
Next fall, Ke’La will head to the University of Kentucky to pursue a graduate education in athletic training. And when asked what she’d be thinking as she walks across the stage at commencement, she replied simply, “I did it.”