Alyssa and Katie O’Keefe have a dream to start a Christian Therapeutic Riding Stable. They plan to combine their University of Connecticut undergraduate degrees in Animal Science and Therapeutic Horsemanship with their pursued Master of Arts in Counseling degrees.
They want their stable to be a mission field.
HORSES FOR HEALING
Horseback riding has been a major part of the sisters’ lives since the age of seven. Katie O’Keefe witnessed how much riding helped friends who had learning disabilities. This sparked the beginning of their passion to use therapeutic riding to help others reach what seem like unattainable goals.
For example, they saw a rider go from needing assistance while walking to running on her own. “Seeing the improvements and the joy that can be brought to these individuals was such an inspiration,” O’Keefe recalls. While performing therapy for those who desire physical healing, the O’Keefes will share the love of Christ that offers spiritual healing.
JOURNEY TO THE SUMMIT
Alyssa and Katie O’Keefe have just wrapped up their first year of graduate studies at Summit University. However, just over a year ago, they never envisioned this was where they would be.
Going into their senior year at the University of Connecticut, God redirected their journey through a terrifying trial. Their father was diagnosed with cancer. He was given less than nine months to live; surgery was the last hope of saving his life.
Alyssa O’Keefe remembers, “A week before Christmas, we got the call that delivered the greatest Christmas present that I have ever received; the surgery worked. My dad was cancer free!”
The sisters considered attending graduate school, but they were hesitant because of the chance that the cancer will return. After view
ing their options, it was clear Summit University was the perfect fit. The school was within a reasonable drive to their Connecticut home, and Summit University was willing to be flexible and help them if their father’s cancer was to return.
CLARKS SUMMIT UNIVERSITY EXPERIENCE
Once she stepped foot onto the Summit University campus, Katie O’Keefe noticed, “So many people are quick to greet you with a smile.” Both graduate students immediately knew that there was something special about this place.
They initially feared that living off-campus could create a disconnection between them and the students. Alyssa O’Keefe is thrilled that, “Sarah, Phil (residence hall directors), and the girls of Thomson Residence Hall have welcomed us with open arms. We couldn’t be happier with our campus family!”
After one year in the graduate school counseling program, they have appreciated professors such as Dr. Valencia. “He is not only a fantastic professor,” Katie O’Keefe says, “but he shows that he genuinely cares about how I am are doing both in and out of class.”
Along with graduate work, Alyssa O’Keefe is an academic advisor for online counseling students, and Katie O’Keefe is the administrative assistant in the Financial Aid Office. They both serve with an inner city outreach student ministry team called Mission Scranton.
“While my dad’s battle with cancer is not something I would ever like to experience again,” says Katie O’Keefe, “God used it to bring us here.”