REACH program adds third year option for students

BY AMY SKARNULIS | JULY 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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Students in the Realizing Educational and Career Hopes program [REACH] will now have the opportunity to extend their stay at the University of Iowa for another year, and one program official said the additional year will promote independence and self-advocacy.

The program will extend its regular, two-year certificate program and create an optional third-year program starting this fall. The program is for college students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities.

UI officials started a pilot of its third-year program last year; it will be in full form this fall.

Program director Jo Hendrickson said the third-year option is a great opportunity — though limited — for students who need another year of transitional support.

"It will be an option for students whose families think they're not ready to return home to their community," she said.

In the original two-year certificate program, the students live in Stanley Residence Hall and have a meal plan at Burge.

Students will now have the option of living with a roommate in Parklawn Apartments in the third year and take a full course load at the UI.

Students will focus more on daily life skills, such as purchasing food, cooking, apartment living, cleaning, and learning the planning when sharing expenses with a roommate even though they will not actually share them, she said.

Daniel Tyson, who has participated in the program for the past two years, will be a part of the third-year option this fall. He said he is looking forward to living in an apartment because it will provide him with greater freedom.

"I'm going to be living in an apartment, and I'll have a roommate," he said. "I already know his name is Bradley."

Hendrickson said one thing that differentiates the program from similar programs at other universities is that the students are involved with campus life and the program directors find internships that match students' interests.

"It's unique," she said. "It does take a little more work, but we think it's really valuable because it is what they prefer and what their interests are."

Tyson takes full advantage of this option. He had an internship that fit his love of sports.

"Last year, I worked with the university basketball team," he said. "I was like a student manager."

He said he eventually wants to get a job in the medical field working with senior citizens.

Hendrickson said self-advocacy is a skill they focus on, and staff members help students by meeting with them on a weekly basis to offer support they need to succeed.

"Self-advocacy is important," she said. "They will work on their leadership skills and getting involved in the community more."

The Eastern Iowa Community College District, which includes Clinton, Scott, and Muscatine Community Colleges, has a similar program called ACCESS.

Catherine Petersen, the ACCESS student adviser, said the program is more of a bridging process between high school and college, and all students in the program are still high-school students.

While in the program, students have contact with their special-education teachers and high-school resources, she said. When students have completed the ACCESS program, they continue to take classes at the college level.

"Their disability might affect their transitions," she said. "Academically, the student may be pretty strong but doesn't know how to use college resources or doesn't self-advocate well."

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