By Andy Goodell
After graduating from UI REACH, Stephen Schumacher was able to get a full-time job in his home town of Reno, Nevada. He’s worked at Arrow Electronics for more than five years as a “pick runner,” where he moves electronics parts orders to a conveyer belt in preparation for shipping worldwide.
“I enjoy it,” says Schumacher, adding that he’s also lived independently since graduating as part of the inaugural class in 2010. UI REACH, which stands for Realizing Educational and Career Hopes, is a two-year, transition, certificate program that empowers young adults with multiple cognitive and learning disabilities to live independently.
Schumacher says it’s wonderful to have been a part of the first graduating class of UI REACH, where he felt like he was a part of the campus community every day.
“I was glad that I was able to attend,” says Schumacher. “It was neat to live on campus and get to go to a Big 10 school and become an Iowa Hawkeye. It was just fabulous.”
While at the university, Schumacher joined the Campus Activities Board. Through this experience, Schumacher says he got to know the campus better, which was fun and engaging for him.
Stephen Schumacher’s father, who shares the same name, says he’s very appreciative of the UI REACH program, noting how unique it is to have in the U.S. It was one of the first of its kind at a Big Ten research institution, offering noncredit classes in academic enrichment, life and social skills, career development and student life.
“It gives students a feeling of being independent and that’s what we really are looking for,” Schumacher’s dad says.
Since the program began in 2008, over 80 percent of UI REACH students are employed, much higher than the national average of under 20 percent of people employed who have disabilities. To date, 121 students have graduated from the UI REACH program.
While enrolled in UI REACH, Schumacher also learned the value of self-advocacy. In October of 2016, Stephen earned the Self Advocate Award from the Nevada Disability Advocacy & Law Center at a dinner hosted by NDALC with around 100 attendees. The award recognized individuals who have made extraordinary efforts throughout Nevada to promote the rights of people with disabilities.
Schumacher also serves as vice-chairman of the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities that advises the governor of Nevada on issues regarding individuals with developmental disabilities.