Interview With Matt Downey About The California Outreach Challenge

The following is an interview with Matt Downey and the California Outreach Program.  Matt is a SPT at Long Beach State.  In addition, Matt is the California Core Ambassador, CSULB PTSA President, and the CA sSIG Secretary.  A big thank you to Matt for his willingness to do the interview.  If there are any projects you would like to promote, contact us at and we will set up an interview for you.

FitPT: What is the California Outreach Challenge? 

Matt: The California Outreach Challenge is a state-wide competition that challenges PT and PTA students to go out and serve their local communities! Over the course of the school year students log their hours online and the top PT and PTA students and programs are recognized at California Student Conclave.

FitPT: How did the Challenge come about/who started it?

Matt: Gail Bachman created the Challenge when she was Core Ambassador in 2014.  She wanted to create a venue to recognize the amazing service students were performing across the state while also encouraging new students to get involved in their communities. It started small but has grown to include participants from many of the PT and PTA programs in California.

FitPT: What influenced you to join the Challenge?

Matt: During my first year at CSULB, the third year APTA representatives stopped by to tell my cohort about the Challenge. I signed up that year just to see what the Challenge was about. Signing up pushed me to get involved with community service as a first year and sparked my passion for serving my community.

FitPT: What types of activities count toward volunteer hours?

Matt: Any type of community service counts! The only type of hours that don't count are hours from clinical affiliations or experiences required by PT and PTA programs. We have students logging a wide variety of hours from events such as Special Olympics events, health fairs, 5K's, half-marathons, and even youth groups. The community service events don't have to just be physical therapy related - what's most important is that students are getting out into their local communities.

FitPT: Can you give those interested in participating ideas on how and where to volunteer besides those listed on the website?

Matt: I've found that PT and PTA faculty members are awesome resources for finding volunteer opportunities. Many programs either require or highly encourage involvement in community service or they may have faculty members who are highly involved in the community. I encourage students to reach out to their programs to learn more about the service opportunities close to them. Students can also reach out to their state chapters or their state's student special interest groups to learn about more opportunities.

FitPT: If I were trying to convince my classmates to join me in this Challenge, what should I say to them?

Matt: At it's core, physical therapy is a service-oriented profession that allows us to give back to our local communities. Many volunteer events are awesome opportunities for students to apply what they've learned in the classroom to different populations in their community. Whether it be working with athletes in the Special Olympics, building and fitting adaptive tricycles for children with disabilities, or participating in an adaptive surfing event like with Life Rolls On, there are a ton of different ways to get involved!

FitPT: Currently, this is a California program.  Do you know of other similar programs in other states or nationally?  What would someone have to do to get one started in their state?

I believe Virginia also has an Outreach Challenge. Creating an Outreach Challenge begins with contacting your state chapter's board of directors and your state's student special interest group if it has one. They'll be able to provide you with the resources and information you'll need to get things rolling. You can also contact me at if you want to talk more in detail.


Feel free to check out the California Outreach Challenge on social media




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