Monday, March 2, 2020

By Elianna Novitch

Alumnus Kelly Blake (MA ’15) was honored with the 2019-20 I-SERVE Alumnus of the Year Award. Blake currently serves as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Northeast Ohio Healthcare System in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I’m really honored and it means a lot to me,” Blake says. “I’m a vet myself and working with veterans is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”

The award honors a veteran alumnus from the College of Education who has made a positive impact on their local, national, international, or veteran community, the University of Iowa, or through other service. Blake was nominated by Noel Estrada-Hernandez, the department executive officer of the Rehabilitation and Counselor Education department.

“I cannot recommend Kelly any higher for this honor,” Estrada-Hernandez says in his nomination letter. “Through his life experiences not only his peers learned, but so did I. As his professor, I admired his dedication and his interest for wanting to know more.”

Blake served in the U.S. Army for more than seven years and later had the opportunity to attend the University of Iowa.

“When I got the opportunity to go to school for [Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling], my whole world changed,” Blake says. “Being in that program and being able to have that impact on other people’s lives now is just… If you handed me a magic lamp and asked what wishes do you have, I couldn't ask for anything else.”

In his position as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Blake provides client-centered individualized rehabilitation services to veterans in the northeast Ohio area. He conducts formal vocational rehabilitation screenings to evaluate strengths, needs, abilities, and preferences to assist veterans with identifying goals and establishing service direction and potential programs and providers including healthcare providers.

“Kelly’s work is certainly living the rehabilitation philosophy which values human dignity and self-actualization,” Estrada-Hernandez says.

Blake says his favorite part of his job is assisting and empowering veterans.

“People really are capable of so much and a lot of times, they don't recognize that. If you’re just able to have a conversation with someone and let them talk their way through things, they can often come to the right solution if you just ask them a couple of questions,” Blake says. “And when they realize that you can just see how empowering that is for them, and I think that they gain a real sense of strength from that knowledge.”

Alumnus Tim Bosch (MA '14) was honored with the 2018-19 I-SERVE Alumnus of the Year Award. Bosch currently serves as a Mental Health and Readjustment Counselor with the La Crosse Veteran Center in Wisconsin.

The Iowa Supports Education Resources for Veterans and Enlisted (I-SERVE) Center is based in the College of Education and helps veterans and enlisted individuals’ transition into higher education at the University of Iowa. It provides them with career development and helps veterans secure financial, health, and other assistance programs.