By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
Roane State grad Harley Sharpe took on daunting challenges as a blind massage therapy student. She not only persisted, she prevailed with distinction, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sharpe, 21, was a straight-A student and passed the national licensing exam on her first try. A significant percentage of students who take that test can’t say that.
As for her Roane State grades, “My mom wanted me to mention that,” Harley said in a phone interview. “I’m really not trying to brag.”
Attaining those accomplishments “took a lot of hard work,” Harley said. “I set goals, and I put the work in. I was elated that it paid off.”
Harley’s mom, Julie Smith, made the 90-minute drive from Oneida to Roane State’s Oak Ridge Branch Campus for Harley’s classes. Mother and daughter often bonded during those drives. At other times, Harley studied while her mother drove.
Harley’s last semester at Roane State occurred while the pandemic forced the college to close campuses and convert to online studies. The final internships also had to be converted to case studies and research papers that were posted online.
High-tech devices that convert text on screens to speech “helped me tremendously,” Harley said, “but I was disappointed I wasn’t able to do the internships in person. It would have been a great experience.”
“She completed her virtual internships without a glitch,” said Roane State Associate Professor Gary Genna, who oversees the college’s massage therapy program. Genna said that because of the pandemic, it took the licensing exam provider three months “to schedule Harley with the necessary accommodations.”
The national licensing exam spanned the gamut of her coursework, from anatomy and physiology to pathologies, client assessment, and law and ethics.
With the exam behind her, Harley said she plans to obtain the requisite state license and begin working close to home. “I also plan to get a guide dog. That would open up possibilities for my personal and professional life.”
In reflecting back on her days at Roane State, Harley had kind words for her fellow students. “It was nice to be around them. I’m very proud of my class. They became like a family to me.”