By Kit Fitzgerald | firstname.lastname@example.org
Unlike most class days, this week, University of Iowa REACH students ate calzones and cookies at DP Dough for their lessons on Tuesday and Thursday.
DP Dough owner Jon Sewell coordinated with UI REACH staff member Kelsey Diltz to bring the Lifetime Cooking and Food Prep/Safety class to the establishment to learn about cooking safety. Sewell said the goal was to give the students a brief lesson of how a restaurant works.
“A lot of what we teach is how the students can live independently,” Diltz said. “And how they can get a job and keep a job.”
The UI REACH Program is a two-year, transition, certificate program for students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities.
The students first listened to a lecture from Sewell on food safety and then broke into groups to tour the kitchen.
“Everything we’ve taught in the classroom is basically reflected when they come here,” Diltz said. “It shows how to be safe, it shows what they need to do in the kitchen.”
Diltz said some of the students had never seen a commercial kitchen, and it could also be a chance for them to see if they would want a career working with food.
UI student McKenna Ellis wants to go into customer service, but she said it was cool seeing how other people work.
“It shows … that there are people out there, even though they might be different, they can still understand and do things that others can do,” Ellis said.
Class aide Danielle Beechy said UI REACH looks for ways to get integrated into the community and gain real-life experience.
“I think, personally, if we keep them in a classroom and then we expect them to get jobs, they’re going to get there, and they’re not going to be prepared,” she said. “They’re not going to know what to do.”
Beechy said traditional college students have internships and other hands-on learning experiences, and UI REACH students should have those opportunities as well.
Diltz said the community helps with this.
“The community is very accepting of our students. We have internships all across Iowa City, and Coralville, and on campus,” Diltz said. “[Even] traditional students on campus, they look out for our students.”
Sewell said working with the UI REACH program and the participating students was amazing. They were asking great questions and were very attentive, he said.
DP Dough has worked with Dance Marathon, LGBTQ groups, UI Children’s Hospital, Domestic Violence Shelters, Systems Unlimited Inc., and other organizations in the past.
“I enjoy interacting with various groups in the community …” Sewell said. “I enjoy using the store to be part of the community and give back.”
UI student Eli Ritz said the UI REACH program helps people with disabilities learn about working and trying something new every day, and Diltz said many students thought DP Dough was their b
est field trip.
Sewell looks forward to working more with the UI REACH program.
“One kid said, ‘I’d love to work here’ and I was thinking, I’d love to have him work here,” Sewell said. “It’s kind of challenging to figure out how we could bring one of these students in … But I’m guessing Kelsey and I are going to figure how to do that.”