Otte, Baldo Highlight Spring Semester PEO Experiences
Lincoln, NE – At the onset of the spring semester, 23 student-athletes embarked on new professional experiences through Nebraska Athletics’ Post-Eligibility Opportunities (PEO) program. These student-athletes have spent the semester either furthering their education, studying abroad, or strengthening their resumes at places such as Sandhills Publishing, Lincoln Public Schools, Ventura College, Star Prop Real Estate, and Wichita State University.
Since being launched in the spring of 2016, Nebraska’s PEO Program has provided student-athletes with financial support to further their career goals after graduation. Through the PEO Program, letterwinner alumni that exhaust their eligibility qualify for a one-semester scholarship valued up to $7,500 to apply to an internship, study abroad experience, or graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln or the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
With 23 participants this past spring, a grand total of over $1.2 million has now been distributed to students through the PEO program. This spring also boasted the second-most participants in any given semester thus far, as well as the second-highest amount of money distributed, at $172,500.
Among this semester’s participants was Taylor Otte, a former outfielder for the Husker softball team and a three-time member of the Academic All-Big Ten team. Otte used PEO funds as a means to both continue her education and gain experience at Quality Living, Inc. (QLI) in Omaha. With the goal of becoming an occupational therapist (OT), Otte has been taking additional courses needed to apply to OT school this spring while simultaneously working at QLI as an exercise assistant. In her role at QLI, Otte directly assists patients who have experienced brain injuries.
“Throughout a typical day, I help residents relearn how to walk and get stronger,” said Otte. “I am also enrolled in two classes, so I can pursue my dream job of becoming an occupational therapist.”
As a student who was unsure of what she wanted to pursue leading up to graduation, the PEO program gave Otte the resources to shift her career focus to occupational therapy despite not having all the prerequisites to apply to OT school. Now, Otte’s dream is inching closer to becoming a reality, and she hopes to be enrolled full-time in OT school this time next year.
“Since the PEO program has allowed me to return to school while also getting firsthand experience side-by-side with occupational therapists and physical therapists, I am now able to apply to statewide occupational therapy schools with confidence and hope to be accepted this coming fall” said Otte.
As Otte wraps up her PEO involvement and looks ahead to OT school, she remains cognizant of how the program has impacted her future.
“The PEO program has allowed me to get hands-on experience and knowledge that I would not be able to learn in a classroom,” Otte said. “This experience has not only taught me so much about life, but also about myself.”
In addition to Otte, former Nebraska Soccer midfielder Rosalia Baldo represents another PEO participant whose career aspiration was supported through program funding. Currently serving as a Physical Therapist Aide at FCE Unlimited in Chicago, Baldo spent her spring assisting physicians with the day-to-day operations of the company.
“I’m doing a lot of scheduling and getting the clients in the door, setting them up for their exercises, Baldo explained. “I take notes to send home with the patients for the owner. As we’re doing exercises, I’m observing and helping them out with putting everything into the system.”
As a student-athlete at Nebraska, Baldo experienced some physical roadblocks of her own throughout her playing days that ultimately ended her soccer career prematurely as an underclassman.
“I was taken away from a sport and everything I knew and I didn’t recover quickly,” said Baldo. “We don’t like to say that sports define us, but especially at that level and going to Nebraska for that very reason, it was very difficult for me to separate and give myself another purpose at that time.”
Still, Baldo viewed this trying experience as an opportunity to explore new things outside of soccer and launch her own path. This difficult time ultimately pushed Baldo toward getting involved in the health field and assisting others at attaining wellness.
“Though I lost my world in a sense, Nebraska Athletics has opened so many other doors that I am so thankful for. I believe my passion is health and fitness and helping others be at their best, not only physically but being well-rounded. Everything you do, you have to have balance.”
This semester, Baldo has not only learned more about physical therapy and health, but about what it means to be a dedicated, successful professional.
“We were set up for success through athletics and academics in the sense of athletics providing us with that commitment aspect of it, that hard work, and all those different traits that we picked up playing sports,” said Baldo.
“You need all those characteristics to be successful in the work environment, but I feel as though I didn’t really understand what it entailed. When I got here, I picked up on skills like how to communicate properly. Although we talked to coaches, peers, and our professors, there’s a different type of communication you need to have when talking to a client versus the owner or your manager.”
With newly developed professional skills and experience in the health field, Baldo feels as though her PEO experience was exactly what she needed in order navigate the transition from student-athlete to the real world.
“I believe this internship was that stepping stone in making me realize that it’s okay to not know what I want to do, but also that I’m capable of things outside of soccer and school. I learned very quickly that it’s all about your mentality and your work ethic and that’s something I can control. If you have that hard work ethic and that drive in you, I believe you can find what you want to do and conquer it.”
Much like Otte, Baldo remains focused on what lies ahead and finding her true place in the professional realm. Still, her perspective on how PEO has shaped where she is today remains evident.
“I am still so appreciative of the doors that have opened,” Baldo said. “Other doors closed from Nebraska Athletics, but they’ve opened so many others. They’ve really set me up to do some really great things in the future.”
To learn more about Nebraska’s PEO program and other student-athletes resources offered through the Life Skills department, visit Huskers.com/LifeSkills.