This profile was originally published on Dec. 10, 2019. It was republished on Feb. 25, 2021 with updated information.
In a sense, Jesse Greene was living three lives simultaneously.
In one, he was a senior student in SUNY Broome’s challenging Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program, heading into clinical rotations and preparing to graduate in May of 2020. In the overnight hours, he worked third-shift as a security guard at Lourdes Hospital. And then there was his third identity: as a Tang So Do Master, teaching Southern Tier students of all ages the Korean martial art at a school he runs.
“The last three years, I’ve been getting no sleep, just two to three hours per night,” he said at the time. “All I do is work, go to school and run my business. My free time is limited.”
But as any good martial artist knows, you need to push on through discomfort to reach the next level of achievement.
Jesse first attended SUNY Broome nearly 14 years ago, directly out of high school, but quit after a year and a half. Three years ago – soon after he took over the martial arts school – he found himself weighing his financial options.
“I wasn’t making any money as a security guard, and I didn’t want to work two or three jobs to pay my bills,” he said.
Friends suggested that he consider returning to school and training for a new career. He initially considered online programs, but none caught his interest. SUNY Broome’s competitive PTA program did.
Returning to school after years away, however, proved daunting – but Jesse Greene pushed through the fear.
“Coming back, I was scared,” he admitted. “I had that mentality that I need to do this to better myself and for my kids. There were no excuses: I had to do what I had to do.”
SUNY Broome made sense on a number of levels: It’s local, inexpensive, and known for high-quality academics. The small class sizes also enabled him to connect with his instructors on a personal level, and master the material.
His professors in the PTA programs proved able guides to his field of study. Another inspiration was psychology Professor Jesse Boring, who gave Greene needed insights on the role of sleep and the brain, and presented subject matter in a way he found easily accessible.
“All of the professors I’ve had have been great and helped push me along,” Greene said.
The first local COVID-19 outbreak happened during Greene’s final semester, only a week before the PTA class of 2020 began their final clinicals. “We watched as cases spread through the week, leading to the lockdown and cancelation of our clinicals,” Greene remembered. Teachers, through Zoom, kept students apprised of when clinical would be possible again and the plans for graduation.
“By the end of May we had received word that we were approved to proceed with clinicals in July and August,” Greene said, noting that he completed his clinical at Windsor Physical Therapy and graduated this year after all.
The coronavirus also disrupted other important aspects of his life. “I had to close the Dojang — the martial arts school — for several weeks in hopes of flattening the curve,” he said. As time progressed, Greene moved classes online, and then, when guidelines came out allowing the school to hold small gatherings outside, he taught classes in an outdoor venue. Currently, he teaches classes in the evenings.
Greene is still working as a security guard and has taken up a part-time cleaning job to “help pay down some of the debt I had incurred while pursuing my degree.” He is also studying for the PTA licensing exam and is looking for a PTA position that will be a good fit.
Long term, he would like to partner with a physical therapist and open a practice alongside his martial arts school. His PTA training also proves beneficial in the dojo, allowing him to modify training for students dealing with an injury or other physical restrictions, he said.
While his time at SUNY Broome was exhausting and unexpectedly complicated towards the end, he still describes his experience as, “In a word: fulfilling.”