Iowa REACH program expands opportunities for Chelan’s Zoee Stamps
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Chelan-native Zoee Stamps is embracing college life at the University of Iowa as part of UI REACH (Realizing Educational and Career Hopes)lizing Educational and Career Hopes), a program designed to expand the horizons and potential of individuals with learning challenges.
The evening I interviewed her parents, Steve and Shelly Stamps, they were keeping one eye on television coverage of a University of Iowa basketball game. Zoee and her friends had seats near one of the baskets and she wanted to make sure her parents saw her during the game.
The rich social life of a college campus is one of the hallmarks of university programs like UI REACH that are giving individuals with learning challenges expanded life and work skills that will help them live more full lives in our society. UI REACH is a model program that other universities around the country are starting to emulate. Zoee is enrolled in UI REACH classes as well as traditional college courses.
Steve Stamps is a name well recognized by sports fans in North Central Washington. The third-generation Chelan resident is continuing to farm the family orchard and has been a decorated women’s basketball coach, including successful stints at Highline Community College, Wenatchee Valley College and Chelan High School.
Shelly has been an elementary school teacher in the Chelan School District for nearly three decades. Together, they have three kids, Zoee at Iowa, son Quinn at College of the Canyons and Reed, who is a senior at Chelan High.
Sending 23-year-old Zoee halfway across the country to college was a bigger leap of faith for Shelly and Steve, they admit, than for Zoee. Zoee, after all, has her driver’s license, lived for a time in the Tri Cities doing an internship for Young Life, and attended Wenatchee Valley College.
Zoee loves God, school and reading. She’s a dedicated student and consummately meticulous in her preparation for life events. In high school, she participated in Young Life, 4-H, was a member of the equestrian team, played softball, skied, and was involved in cheerleading. Steve and Shelly said the Chelan School district did a wonderful job of fostering a sense of belonging for Zoee.
Zoee focuses on what she can do rather than any limitations. “Her learning needs did not hamper her from jumping in the middle of things,” marveled her father.
After she graduated from Chelan High, her social circle has diminished as friends have gone on to college or careers and in many cases left the valley. This is the reality for most individuals with learning challenges. Life opportunities become extremely limited once high school has been completed.
Fortunately for Zoee, her parents have continued to encourage and support her continued evolution as a human being. For others who may be more significantly affected by neurological issues, there aren’t many options, particularly in rural settings like Chelan.
Steve and Shelly found out about the UI REACH program last spring and jumped into action. Zoee and her parents interviewed with the school and she was accepted into the program.
She’s living in a dorm, attending Big 10 athletic events with her friends, and has joined some clubs on campus.
She’ll have access to internships and job shadows to help her identify her strengths and what her career path will be.
Zoee’s success at the UI REACH program is something that should inspire us to find more ways in our communities to integrate everyone. “We have to embrace an inclusive mindset. We need to recognize that we all have strengths and limitations,” said Shelly. “We all are unique. It is my job as an educator and a parent to support my students and my own children in recognizing their interests and abilities and to use these to support them in developing into life long learners and productive citizens. UI REACH exemplifies what it means to have an inclusive mindset,” she added.
As Zoee continues to gain skills and confidence that will help her thrive in the world, many in similar circumstances are languishing. We can and must do better for these individuals in our communities.
For more information on UI REACH, check out this link: https://education.uiowa.edu/reach
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