April 26, 2010
PHOTOS: top--The first 16 REACH students who will receive their certificates at the May convocation pose for a group picture; bottom--UI student Lauren LeMasters enjoys taking care of animals and hopes to land a job as a veterinary assistant after interning at Creature Comfort Veterinary Center in Iowa City and armed with her REACH certificate.
UI REACH students receive certificates at first convocation May 7
Like many other University of Iowa students, Stephen Schumacher can’t wait to put his new skills to work at his first post-college job.
“This certificate shows that I know how to work in an office, start my own business and how to market and sell things,” said Schumacher, 23, a Reno, Nevada, native who plans to pursue a career at the VA Medical Center in Reno or at a warehouse.
Schumacher is one of 16 students who will receive a certificate this May through the UI College of Education’s Realizing Education and Career Hopes (REACH) Program during a convocation at 4:30 p.m. Friday, May 7, in the UI Pappajohn Business Building.
The celebration will recognize the achievements of the first cohort of students to receive certificates through the innovative two-year program, which helps students with multiple learning and cognitive disabilities achieve independence and life skills. The event is by invitation only for REACH students, family and friends.
The REACH class of 2010 includes an auto enthusiast who hopes to go into sales and help others buy their dream car, students intent on working in office settings, students who dream of working with animals, and students who wish to pursuing careers in recreation, to name a few.
Alexa Posny, U.S. Department of Education assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, will be the keynote speaker at the convocation.
The program, one of the first of its kind at a Big Ten research institution, offers noncredit classes taught by REACH instructors in academic enrichment, life and social skills, career development and student life.
The students receiving certificates hail from six different states -- eight students are from Iowa -- including Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota and Nevada.
Of these students, 10 have completed requirements for a career focus area such as retail, animal care, recreation, hospitality and business support.
During the program, the students not only take classes and live in a UI residence hall, they also complete two internships and receive additional transitional and post-REACH program support to ensure continued success.
“Students with a REACH certificate have an advantage in the workplace and in general as they transition to the next stage of their lives,” said REACH Director Jo Hendrickson. “The REACH certificate shows potential employers that the person applying for the position is motivated to learn and wants to improve his or her life.“
Hendrickson added that employers will know that a REACH student has already had success in the classroom and in the workplace.
“They’ll know that he or she can get along with roommates and co-workers, has lived in close quarters with peers and knows that compromise is important,” Hendrickson said. “They’ll also know that he or she has had a plethora of opportunities to problem solve during their two years of living and learning on a university campus.”
Of the first 16 students, three or four have plans to continue their education at a community college. Others are continuing to work on their transition plans and job searches.
“Although employment and developing job skills are important outcomes that will be measured across time, the immediate aim is for students to develop a transition plan and identify their ‘circle of support’ -- families, friends, agencies and business contacts -- that can be of assistance in different dimensions of their lives as they plan for the future,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson said that throughout the spring semester, REACH students have been honing their job search skills and have begun researching opportunities for work. REACH staff members have been assisting students in completing polished resumes and cover letters, working with students to identify employers of interest, and assisting in submitting their applications.
“Each student develops a transition plan with input from individuals they have identified as part of their ‘circle of support,’” Hendrickson said. “In this plan, they establish a timeline for reaching goals they set in three areas: independent living, career and community and leisure.”
The Principal Financial Group Foundation, Inc. has contributed a grant to help students transition from REACH and to help students, employers and communities in a variety of ways that will enable students to achieve their goals in the three key areas.
At this time, all students have identified career interest areas and the types of jobs that they might like to pursue. Students have prepared employment portfolios and have begun to plan their job search strategies, Hendrickson said.
Lauren LeMasters, 21, whose parents currently live in Washington, D.C., said she plans to pursue a career as a veterinary assistant and that the support from REACH will help her land that first job post-college.
LeMasters said she especially benefited from help with her dyslexia – a learning disability that manifests itself as a difficulty with reading. She has learned coping strategies for doing everything from reading instructions to filling out forms.
“I know you don’t always get your dream job and so I have photography and other office skills,” LeMasters said, who is completing a spring internship at Creature Comfort Veterinary Center in Iowa City as a veterinary assistant. “I really enjoy working there. It’s challenging and I’m helping do everything from walking the dogs to doing exams with the vets.”
Both Schumacher and LeMasters said they feel empowered by the skills and knowledge they’ve gained through REACH, which they said not only benefits them but also helps dispel stereotypes about people with learning and cognitive disabilities.
“When you have disabilities, it’s hard to get a good college experience,” Schumacher said. “We’re regular students, but we just have a different way of learning, and this is what the program is all about. It’s shows the campus and world that we can do this. There’s no such thing as ‘Cannot do,’ We just ‘Do differently.’”
For more information on REACH, visit http://www.education.uiowa.edu/reach/.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Reporters, photographers and videographers are invited to cover the convocation and interview students and parents. To make arrangements, call Lois J. Gray in advance at 319-384-0077.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Center One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500