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Physical therapist brings skills back home

A University of Florida graduate returns to Citrus County _ the same school system that shaped her.

Katie Algeo was a Citrus County baby. Well, technically, she was born at Monroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, but, she said, "I lived here from day two."

She went to Inverness Primary School and attended Inverness Middle School, followed by Citrus High School. Then, she said, "I went right on to UF (University of Florida) in August of '95."

Four years later, she is back and working for the school system that shaped her. She is now a physical therapist who will be helping children at Lecanto Primary, Lecanto Middle, Lecanto High and CREST schools.

"I decided when I was 7 years old that I wanted to be a physical therapist. I've always been very goal-oriented and organized," said Algeo, now 22. "My dad is a speech therapist, and I used to go with him to Lakeview. He worked next door to an OT (occupational therapist)."

At the time, Algeo said, she didn't know the difference between an OT and a PT (An OT helps individuals with their fine motor skills, while a PT is more concerned with gross motor skills) and she thought it was an exciting job.

She kept it in mind and in high school took anatomy and physiology, volunteered in the physical therapy department of Citrus Memorial Hospital and participated in an externship at Gulf Coast Aquatic and Rehabilitation Center as part of the high school gifted program.

"I loved it, and I decided that's what I want to do with my life. I wanted to be a physical therapist," she said.

She knows she wants to help people, but hadn't really decided on an age group until the position to work with children opened in her home county. "I've always loved kids," she said, calling them "one of the most challenging and rewarding groups."

Algeo says she likes Citrus County but didn't necessarily think she would be back here to work. "I'm a realist," she said, "and I applied to other places." But she landed a job here and seems glad about it. It's nice, she said, as a new employee to know people in the system.

She also is glad to be near her family. "I have a really close family and I like to be close to them," she said.

Several members of her family work in the school system, too. Her dad, Mark Algeo, is the new exceptional student education specialist at Inverness Middle School. Her mom, Chris, is an early intervention prekindergarten teacher at Inverness Primary School. Her aunt, Pat Stokes, heads the Even Start program out of Promise Village in Crystal River, and her uncle, Tom Stokes, teaches third grade at Homosassa Elementary School.

Two of her siblings are still in a Citrus County school. Megan is a senior at Citrus High School and Matt is a freshman there. Algeo's other sister, Maura, is a junior at the University of Florida studying nursing.

Algeo will meet her students in a few days and said, "I'm excited to start, to get into a routine and know what I'm doing; (to) meet the kids and get to know them."

Perhaps in a few years, Algeo says, she will continue her education, but for now she is eager to put her new skills to work.

"This is what I want to do," she said. "I'm sure of that."

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