Student Stories: Ernest Daunter

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Major: Physical Therapist Assistant

In 2013, Ernest Daunter was diagnosed as diabetic and hypertensive.

He weighed 350 pounds and was in a career that created stress on a daily basis. Given Daunter’s family history, his doctor started prescribing medicine on the assumption that these were lifetime conditions.

“That day I made a decision,” Daunter said. “I was going to change my life starting with my health. I began studying eating and exercising to find a program that would suit me. I gained my certification in personal training and weight loss management for educational purposes – I don’t practice either publicly – and began losing weight. Within a year, I had lost 110 pounds and needed no medication to maintain my normal body functioning.

“I learned so much about many medical fields that I decided to pursue physical therapy as a career. It took a couple years to get moved and comfortable enough to start, but I did it.”

Daunter chose College of DuPage based upon its great educational reputation and the affordable cost. He was a Student Ambassador, which allowed him to volunteer at the school in exchange for payment for his communications class, and he received the Returning Adult Scholarship through the College of DuPage Foundation. 

“All of the donors want to help students better themselves,” he said. “With their help, I could minimize the financial issue for my family and focus on starting another career. One day I’ll be coming to COD as a donor.”

Daunter was accepted into the Physical Therapist Assistant program and continued volunteering in order to gain experience in the field. After earning his Associate in Applied Science degree with high honors, he became licensed and was hired by Athletico, the clinic where he worked as an aide for three years. 

“What brought me to the PTA profession is exactly what I’m doing. I’m spending my days working closely with a dedicated group of physical therapists, assisting patients with anything from rehabbing from a surgery to preparing for running for a marathon and everything in between,” he said. “I’m using my years of customer service experience and my PTA degree to create a healing environment for patients.” 

He appreciates everything College of DuPage offered him and advises other students to get involved.  

“The more people you know and the more you participate, the more opportunities you will get to succeed,” Daunter said. “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Decisions are made by those who show up.’

“And for my personal life, it’s much easier to live a good life when you’re happy. The hard work just isn’t that bad when you’re passionate about what you’re doing. So many dreams go unrealized for one reason or another. COD helped to get me on a track to realize my full potential.” 

More about the Physical Therapist Assistant program