First class of REACH grads move to job market


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Daniel Peters wants to sell Rolls-Royces.

He's had internships at local car dealerships to see what the process is like and now works at a local Hy-Vee.

It's his second time working at the store since he graduated from high school in 2005, but this time is a better experience, the Iowa City native said. He attributes some of the success to the University of Iowa Realized Education and Career Hopes program, which helps students with cognitive and learning disabilities.

"It's helped me be more respectful toward my peers and become more organized and keep my personal space clean," the 24-year-old said.

It especially helped him be more respectful toward customers, he said.

Peters, who graduated in May, is part of the first class of 16 students to graduate from the program. Now, there are 34 students in the program, and officials hope a $2.5 million U.S. Department of Education grant will expand the size and quality of the program.

It started three years ago, and it aims to prepare students for future jobs through internships at various Iowa City businesses and also take a full slate of classes to prepare them for the transition to the real world.

And the first graduates are now finding beginning to find jobs.

At the UI, Peters learned to manage his finances, his job search, and his relationships with people.
He was hesitant to enroll at first. But his parents, who had researched the program, persuaded him.

"We talked it over together and decided to go for it," he said.

Program Director Jo Hendrickson has a plan for where the money will go: support for graduates to transition to the job market and a new associate director. She also hopes to expand a program in which students take classes with the rest of the student body.

She's also trying to keep alumni informed about the money. Now that the first class has moved on from college, they are working to keep in touch and create an alumni association.

Peter Fultz is hoping to be involved in the association. The 23-year-old also graduated in the first class and works at a grocery store in Atlanta. He works as a service clerk and performs other odd jobs for Publix.

"The program taught me how to be patient with customers, taught me some goals such as interpersonal skills, math and budgeting, and dealing with co-workers," Fultz said.

He also still keeps in touch with Matt Mascolino, who lives in Fox River Grove, Ill. The two talk almost every day.

Mascolino, also a 2010 graduate, is still searching for a job and taking in Cary-Grove High School football games every Friday.

All three keep in touch with the program and visit current students they know. Mascolino even traveled to the Penn State Homecoming game.

"The hardest part is leaving the program, knowing you've left behind so many friends," Fultz said.

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