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'If you’re comfortable all the time, you’re doing something wrong.' Cherokee Bluff senior Austin Wallace stretching himself toward career in physical therapy
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Cherokee Bluff's Austin Wallace - photo by Scott Rogers

Cherokee Bluff High School senior Austin Wallace said he thinks of the same Bible verse every time he begins school projects, prepares for a baseball game or thinks of how he’ll prepare himself for his career.

“Colossians 3:23 is kind of the verse of my life. It says, ‘Whatever you do, work at it as if working for the Lord and not for man,’” Wallace recited. “I like to take that and apply it to everything I do.”

The teen said his faith is one of the driving forces that helped him achieve his 4.5-plus GPA while interning at Atlanta Rehabilitation & Performance Center in Flowery Branch, participating and leading in various clubs and playing varsity baseball at Cherokee Bluff since the school opened his sophomore year. He served as president of the National Honor Society at his school, was active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, is a recent graduate of Youth Leadership Hall and is involved in the student ministry at Christ Place Church.

Wallace also said his parents were supportive and pushed him to always do his best, no matter what that looked like. 

“My dad always told me, ‘I don’t care if you make C’s or B’s if that’s the best you can do,’” he said. “They weren’t aggressive with it. They just always wanted me to do the best that I could do.”

And Wallace said that attitude, along with his school’s Work-Based Learning program offering him an internship, has paid off. 

He’ll attend the University of Georgia in the fall and carry his experience working in a physical therapy setting into his major in exercise and sports science. 

Wallace said the program, through which he works from about 7:30 to 10 a.m. each morning, is a perfect mashup of the two things he loves most: sports and medicine. Through his internship with Atlanta Rehab, Wallace said he gets to interact and build rapport with patients, who visit multiple times per week for six to eight weeks at a time.

“It’s really helped to solidify and nail down — this is something I really enjoy, that I really love to do,” he said. 

Wallace said watching the professionals in their work is daily preparing him for a career and giving him a leg up as he heads to college. Wallace said he fell in love with the career path as soon as he became involved during his sophomore year at Cherokee Bluff.

“Everything with anatomy and physiology just fascinates me,” he said, adding that his ultimate goal is to be a physical therapist. “A dream would be to be a physical therapist for a college or pro team.”

Wallace considers himself lucky compared to many students in that he said he didn’t struggle very much when COVID-19 forced closures and cancelations across the country. He said the impacts on his learning have been minimal.

But, he said, the pandemic forced him to slow down, canceling some baseball events and limiting his interaction with friends, at least temporarily. Wallace said he’s grateful for the new perspective he gained.

“It taught me how to slow down … and take in everything around you, not just staying busy all the time,” he said. 

Wallace said he’s excited to take his experience to UGA, where he’ll room with a longtime friend from Flowery Branch High School.

He said new experiences and places, many of which are outside your comfort zone, are where growth occurs. If he had to do it over again, he said he’d encourage a younger Austin to put himself into more uncomfortable situations.

“Purposefully make yourself uncomfortable. That’s what I would say. That’s where I’ve learned the most and grown the most,” he said. “If you’re comfortable all the time, you’re doing something wrong.”

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Cherokee Bluff's Austin Wallace - photo by Scott Rogers
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