The first-ever USC-XULA Early Assurance Program student, DaNya Horne has earned a Rizing Tide’s Crest Scholarship, awarded to first- and second-year DPT students from underrepresented backgrounds.
BY COURTNEY McKINNON
FOR DaNYA HORNE DPT ’26, THE PATH TO BECOMING A PHYSICAL THERAPIST was paved with unforgettable experiences she had during a five-year college prep STEM program starting in 7th grade. Facilitated by Girls Inc. of Omaha, Eureka! provided her the opportunity to participate in numerous STEM activities at the University of Nebraska Omaha.
The program also offered Horne internships focused on her area of interest: physical therapy. While interning at a physical therapy clinic, she had an epiphany. “There was this moment when I instantly saw how this career could be really fulfilling,” Horne says.
During her freshman year of high school, Horne was on the receiving end of physical therapy as a result of a basketball injury — an experience that further cemented her interest in the field. However, she was struck by a glaring absence: There were no physical therapists of color in the clinic.
Horne’s story isn’t confined to her hometown of Omaha — it’s pervasive throughout the United States. In fact, 84 percent of physical therapists in America are Caucasian.
This stark reality only fueled Horne’s motivation, as her mother always encouraged her to seek positions lacking representation. Undeterred, she continued her studies and was accepted to Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA), a historically Black college, to pursue a bachelor’s of science in biology premed. That’s where, with the help of mentors, she discovered — and was accepted into — the USC-XULA Early Assurance Program, which serves as a pathway from XULA and USC to increase diversity in the field of physical therapy and grants early acceptance to USC’s doctor of physical therapy program, given they’ve completed all program requirements.
With the question of where she would earn her doctorate answered, the question of how she would pay for it still lingered. Thankfully, one of her mentors, Adili Rikondja DPT ’23, recommended she apply for the Crest Scholarship from Rizing Tide, which is awarded to DPT students from underrepresented backgrounds entering their first or second year of a DPT program.
“Earning the Crest Scholarship is such a great honor. Representing USC and a community of great physical therapists is so fulfilling,” Horne says. “This scholarship allows me to pay back some of my loans and purchase necessary items for school.”
Now at USC, she’s well on the way to becoming the first doctor in her family. One of the things she’s most thankful for is the community she’s found. “To have a community of Black students, Black faculty, and Black peers who motivate me is invaluable,” she says.
As the first-ever student in the USC-XULA Early Assurance Program, Horne highly recommends this transformative opportunity to XULA students, and she offers this bit of advice. “First, get a mentor. Second, work really hard. I’m not a perfect student, but it’s progression over perfection.”
While Horne hasn’t decided what she’ll specialize in — wound care or sports therapy — one thing is certain: She’s committed to supporting underserved communities. One dream is to give back to Girls Inc. of Omaha. “I would love to either open up a clinic within Girls Inc. or partner with them to thank them for supporting me through my journey.”