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HHP Student Spotlight Series: Leslie Canales

Charlcee Cervantez | June 4, 2024

Leslies Canales with Award
Leslie Canales, B.S. in Recreation Studies with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation

Leslie Canales, a Texas State University student from Dallas, found her calling in an unexpected place – a TikTok video. Now, she's on a path to becoming a recreational therapist, thanks to her fieldwork experience that has shaped her perspective and fueled her passion for helping others.

Canales, majoring in recreational therapy, stumbled upon the field while browsing through social media. "I have always known that I wanted a career in therapy, but I was not sure what specific therapist I wanted to be," she said. “But after coming across a recreational therapist TikTok page, I became extremely intrigued.”

The decision to attend Texas State University was solidified when Canales discovered it was the only campus in Texas offering recreational therapy. "It became a clear choice that I was going to leave Dallas for a while and move to San Marcos," she said. "I was drawn to recreational therapy because I love the idea of creating specific interventions based on a client’s specific needs."

Leslie holding her award

During her fieldwork at Senter Parks and Recreation for the City of Irving, Canales worked tirelessly, dedicating 200 hours to serving various programs. From assisting with the homeschool program to engaging with adults with disabilities, every day presented unique challenges and rewards.

"A typical day consisted of me working with the adults from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.," Canales recounted. “We would engage in indoor and outdoor activities tailored to their needs, from watching cartoons to painting and playing games.”

One of the most memorable experiences for Canales was bonding with an adult with disabilities over making bracelets. "He started calling me his best friend, and it was the sweetest thing I have ever experienced," she said. “It's a memory I will always carry with me.”

Through her fieldwork, Canales gained invaluable insights and skills, particularly in patience and resourcefulness. "My fieldwork experience taught me to have patience with children," she said. "And I learned how to make the most out of one's resources."

Leslie being presented with award

Reflecting on her journey, Canales expressed gratitude for the support she received from the Department of Health and Human Performance at Texas State University. Professors like Amy Esmiol, Dr. Shelby Sharpe, Dr. Allie Thomas, Dr. Jan Hodges, and Stephen Awoniyi played pivotal roles in guiding her and nurturing her growth as a student.

Looking ahead to graduation, Canales remains open to various career paths but is considering contract therapy and working in a physical-rehab hospital. "I truly believe I will love either one of them," she said. “But I am open to new experiences and will be grateful for any learning opportunity that I encounter.”

For future students eager to embark on fieldworks or fieldwork, Canales offered advice based on her experiences. "Give it your all, ask questions, and always keep busy," she said. "It's an amazing learning opportunity where you can identify your strengths and weaknesses."

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