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University of Iowa News Release

 

Oct. 7, 2010

Grant helps UI students with disabilities transition to independent living

University of Iowa students with intellectual disabilities who obtain a two-year certificate from the institution will now have even more support to transition to independent living thanks to a five-year, $2.5 million U.S. Department of Education grant.

The UI College of Education’s Realizing Education and Career Hopes (REACH) program recently received a grant titled “REACH OUT,” short for REACH Outcomes.

Students and alumni of the REACH Program, a two-year, campus-based certificate program for students with intellectual disabilities, will benefit from a variety of new activities, programs and positions designed to help ease their transition to successful and independent living, according to Jo Hendrickson, REACH director and grant principal investigator.

“The grant will help expand university, community and education partnerships, refine, integrate and validate the curriculum, and assess postsecondary education outcomes,” Hendrickson said.

Sixteen students in the inaugural class of 2010 received their certificates in May 2010. Of those, 10 completed a job focus area, which included more than 60 hours of study and experience in their career areas of choice such as business support, recreation, hospitality and marketing/retail. Of the 16 alumni, six have jobs, four are continuing their educations at community colleges, six are continuing post-job training or job searches, and one is volunteering in community organizations while seeking employment.

There are currently 34 students in the program for a total of 50 students served since the inception of REACH. Students hail from Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nevada, New York and Vermont.

The expanded activities funded by the grant will employ a person-centered approach to helping students achieve their individual education, career and independent living goals, Hendrickson said.

The main focus of the grant will be to provide post program support for REACH alumni as well as to improve and extend current program components such as student life, academic enrichment and career development.

Other project objectives include developing and assessing the effect of the curriculum on seven core student goals including independence and daily life skills; vocation and career development; literacy and academic enrichment; communication, social and interpersonal competency; leisure and community life skills; self-advocacy and self-determination; leadership development; and, working with university and community partners for program evaluation, expanded services and internships for students, and workplace development.

The grant will support additional staff including an assistant director, a career development and transition counselor, a transition outcome specialist and a student life counselor as well as undergraduate and graduate student mentors.

Important partnerships will be formed with the UI College of Education’s Iowa Center for Assistive Technology Education and Research, the UI College of Education’s Center for Research on Undergraduate Education as well as school districts that may have students with individualized educational programs (IEP) attending REACH and community agencies that support independent living, life/job coaching, and other services for alumni.

William Therrien, a UI associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, is the co-principal investigator.

Therrien currently teaches a Foundations of Special Education course attended by first-year REACH students. Therrien said that the inclusion of REACH students in his class is invaluable to the professional growth of future teachers.

“Through direct interactions, future teachers come to realize that students with disabilities are just like them with strengths, weaknesses and career aspirations,” Therrien said.

“REACH OUT” is important, Hendrickson said, because it will directly and positively impact the lives of students with intellectual disabilities.

“As a result of this grant, REACH students will be more self-sufficient and self-determined, better able to self-advocate, find and hold a job and enjoy a fulfilling life,” Hendrickson said. “The grant will provide opportunities for training professionals from a variety of disciplines and supporting businesses in making the workplace a win-win for the individual and the employer.”

For more information on REACH, visit http://www.education.uiowa.edu/reach/ or call Hendrickson at 319-384-2127.

Editor’s Note: For more information, see a related release at http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-secretary-education-duncan-announces-109-million-awards-under-new-programs-he.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Center One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jo M. Hendrickson, REACH Program, 319-384-2127, reach@uiowa.edu; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077, lois-gray@uiowa.edu