Wednesday, April 10, 2024

University of Iowa student Regan Trexel has been named the Iowa Direct Support Professional of the Year by ANCOR, the leading voice in Washington for community-based disability services providers. 

Regan Trexel plays jenga with UI REACH students
Regan Trexal works with UI REACH students as the lead social engagement peer mentor.

Trexel is the lead social engagement peer mentor at UI REACH. She is a graduate student pursuing a Masters of Science in Health and Human Physiology, Sub-Track in Child Life from Altoona, Iowa. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Iowa in therapeutic recreation. 

She has been involved with UI REACH as an undergraduate and a graduate student. UI REACH (Realizing Educational and Career Hopes) is nested in the UI College of Education and is a comprehensive transition program for college-age students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities. UI REACH offers an integrated college experience in a caring and structured environment.

“I was very set on continuing to stay at REACH while being here. It’s been a big part of my college career. It was very related to my major, so it felt like I was kind of practicing my major just on the regular.”

– Regan Trexal, lead social engagement peer mentor at UI REACH

Trexel first heard about the UI REACH program in her disabilities studies class. At the time she was looking for a job that aligned with her studies, so she applied to UI REACH and began working as a mentor in 2021, the fall of her sophomore year. In that role she took part in activities nights for UI REACH students, such as playing Nintendo Switch, watching movies, and going downtown to get froyo. She also worked one on one with students. In the spring semester of 2022, she started working as the lead activities mentor. In addition to coordinating activities and helping students meet their goals, Trexel provides tours to students and families interested in the UI REACH program.

Trexel says those in the UI REACH program are amazing students who want to learn and succeed. 

Regan Trexel with UI REACH student
Regan Trexal enjoys chatting with UI REACH students during a class.

“Because I've been with the program for so long, I've seen some students come in and I'll see them leave, which is kind of unique for student employees,” Trexel says. “So, it's very interesting to see growth that students are making.”

Trexel says watching UI REACH students graduate is a special moment, but it’s also bittersweet to see students leave the program. 

UI REACH has also allowed Trexel to build friendship with her colleagues. 

“So many of my peers worked as mentors, so I built a very good social circle through that with my coworkers,” Trexel says. 

UI REACH Director Bill Loyd says the program is better because of the passion and dedication Trexel brings to her work. 

“Student staff are vital to the array of supports offered to UI REACH students. From providing assistance to navigating campus, assistance with attaining independent living and social skills, or just being there to listen to a student who is struggling, our student staff make tremendous impact,” Loyd says. “Mentors like Regan take their jobs to heart and know that the time spent with our students pays off. I’m thrilled that the work that Regan and our other student staff are doing is getting recognition on a national platform.

Regan was recognized for her outstanding commitment to UI REACH at an awards ceremony during ANCOR Connect ‘24 on Wednesday, April 10, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“DSPs really and truly do it all, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this year’s class of honorees deliver transformative and sometimes life-saving supports to the people who accept their services,” Barbara Merrill, chief executive officer for ANCOR says. “People like Regan and all 55 of the 2024 honorees are perfect reminders of why ANCOR works tirelessly to advocate on behalf of the direct support workforce and the incredible work our DSPs do to support people in the community.”

After completing her master’s program, Trexel hopes to work as a child life specialist.