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Emlenton Native Terwilliger Nearing End of Optometry Studies, Reflects on Athletic Career

Friday, July 30, 2021 @ 12:07 AM

Posted by Nate Steis

Screenshot 2021-07-30 064026 (1) (1)EMLENTON, Pa. (EYT/D9) – Since her early days as a high schooler, A-C Valley alum Makayli Terwilliger has known entering the healthcare industry would be the right fit for her career.

Now, around a decade later, she is nearing the finish line in her eight-year journey through higher education.

(Photo courtesy of Grove City College Athletics)

After graduating from A-C Valley in 2014, she headed to Grove City College to study biology and to continue her volleyball career.

“I wanted to stay close to home, and heading to Grove City gave me the opportunity to do that while continuing to play the game I loved in college,” she said. “Grove City also has a relationship with Salus University, which is where I planned to go for Optometry School.”

The four-year varsity letter winner for the Falcons went on to play in 64 matches in her four-year college career and recorded 141 kills and 160 digs. One thing to note about Terwilliger’s journey in college volleyball is despite playing in just five matches as an underclassman in college, she stuck with it and played in 57 matches over her final two years with the Wolverines.

Showing discipline in college athletics was a tune-up for the type of discipline it has taken to stick with graduate school and completing her classwork and clinicals to become a doctor.

“I was not really playing my first two years at Grove City, but it really taught me to dig in and be there for my teammates in different ways,” Terwilliger said. “It also showed me a different way to be a leader from the sideline, and when I got my chances my junior and senior year, I was comfortable being that leader, too, since I had been in that position in high school before.”

After completing her degree in biology in the spring of 2018, she soon began her coursework at Salus University in Philadelphia. Salus is one of the larger Optometry schools in the country and also meant going from a rural setting to the City of Brotherly Love which is home to around 1.6 million people.

“It has been great to experience something new, but it was difficult at first to move far away,” Terwilliger said. “There was definitely an adjustment period, but my professors and Salus have given us a chance to be a half year ahead of other schools in terms of clinicals.”

Despite her first set of clinical rotations being pushed back and some of her classes being shifted to online, Terwilliger has remained on track and is set to complete her studies in May of 2022.

Along the way, she is required to pass three board exams, and one of those exams she was able to complete in March of 2021. Exam No. 2 will be taken this fall and the final board exam will be taken in the early part of 2022.

In addition to these exams, the former Falcon standout has also started her clinical rotation, with some completed in Philadelphia. She also has spent this summer living at home while completing clinicals at Wagner Family Eye Care in Seneca.

After this rotation, she will be heading to St. Marys for her next set of rotations at Elk County Eye Clinic. She will then be required to head back to Philadelphia for a few months for more clinic hours before finishing up her clinical work in Vermont in the spring of 2022.

If there is anything to be said about clinical rotations for any soon-to-be-medical professional, it takes a great deal of adaptability, planning, and discipline.

“I really love the rotation I am at now and having the chance to be close to home with my family, but I am also excited to head north to Vermont for that rotation for the chance to experience something new,” she said. “If I had to say at this point where I see myself working after school, I am hopeful to find a private practice to work at in the area, but I do not want to rule anything out with several more rotations still to go.”

Moving close to home after her days as a Salus student will mean the chance to be close to her fiancé, Tyler Kepple, once again. The couple got engaged in August of 2020 and are set to be wed in June of 2022 in Butler.

“I have really been soaking up as much time with my family as I can since I am home for this rotation,” Terwilliger said. “Spending time with family, going to the gym, and getting outside is how I have spent most of my time this summer.”

Terwilliger credits her parents, Jenny and Fred, for always being so supportive in everything she has done and for helping to show her that the sky was the limit with what she wanted to accomplish, not just in athletics, but also in her future career as an optometrist.

She also credits her mom, who was a registered nurse for many years, for inspiring her journey into the healthcare industry.

Additionally, she credits her high school volleyball coach, Doug Knox, for helping her to fall in love with the game of volleyball and helping her to reach the college level.

Knox continued to support her in college by coming to many of her games during her college career.

Her coach at Grove City, Erin Street, was also a positive influence in her life, as were all of her teammates, both at A-C Valley and during her time playing for the Wolverines.

As can be expected, her time around the game of volleyball has declined, but it is as expected for anyone who has endured a journey like becoming a doctor.

It has required Terwilliger to become educated and work through a global pandemic, a task that has been nothing short of stressful. However, her positive attitude and discipline have made getting to this point right for her possible.

It is not quite the end of the road in her quest to become an eye doctor, but the end is near and the future is bright for this former volleyball star turned medical professional.


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