Feb. 27, 2012
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team has been enjoying a special run the last few weeks, and Danny Tyson is enjoying the experience right along with the Hawkeyes.
Tyson is working as an intern with the team thanks to the UI REACH Program, a two-year transition certificate program for students with multiple intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities.
“I’ve had the pleasure of being at REACH since before the first student arrived and to see it grow into a highly successful and respected program,” said Deb Larson, Career Development Instructor for REACH. “We are the first program to have our students fully integrated as college students by living in the residence halls, and the first on a Big Ten campus.
“The University of Iowa was the perfect place to develop a program such as REACH. The whole community has been overwhelmingly supportive and accepting of our students and supporting the development of their social, academic, independent living, and career skills.
“It is thanks to internship sites such as men’s basketball that we have been able to be so successful. Last fall, REACH was nationally recognized as the premier post-secondary program for persons with disabilities — we were ranked No. 1 of the ’20 Incredible Colleges for Special Needs Students’ by bestcollegesonline.com.”
As Larson noted, internship opportunities like the Hawkeye basketball program have helped make the program what it is today.
“It’s great, it really is,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “The program itself is absolutely fabulous. I think, if in any way, we can help an individual or help that program, I am 100 percent behind it.”
Tyson assists the men’s basketball team managers with practice set-up. During games, he sits with the other managers and is part of the “team family.”
For Tyson, a second-year member of REACH who hails from New York, it has been a dream come true.
“Everyone is so nice and treats me nice,” said Tyson. “I met new people, and I never thought I would be able to do this. It is a great experience and a lot of fun. It is like a dream.”
It has been just as rewarding for the Iowa men’s basketball team.
“It has been going great,” said McCaffery. “Everybody loves Danny. He is easy to like, he is easy to be around. He is funny and is a hard worker. Whenever you have somebody that everybody likes, and works hard, they are great to have in your organization.”
One goal of REACH is for the students to create lasting friendships. For Tyson, that is exactly what has happened with the Hawkeyes. He was excited when he discovered Melsahn Basabe was a fellow New Yorker.
“He grew up right near Melsahn, so they bonded right away,” said McCaffery. “They were buddies last year before Danny even became part of the Iowa basketball family.”
Both REACH and the Hawkeye basketball program have embraced the relationship.
“This is the second internship REACH has had with the men’s basketball team,” said Larson. “During both experiences, the men’s basketball staff, coaches, and players have overwhelmingly embraced the REACH student interns into the ‘team family.’ Before the first practice, we (Deb Larson and Brian Campbell – REACH career staff members) met with the team and explained the REACH program and answered questions. Thanks to coach McCaffery’s leadership, and (director of basketball operations) Jerry Strom’s planning, Danny was set up to succeed with his interactions with the team.”
Tyson has had a unique opportunity to experience what it is like to be a member of a college basketball team. From the outset, it has been a success.
“As we came out of the locker room on day one, I observed multiple players, without any prompting, go up to Danny and shake his hand and introduce themselves,” said Larson. “From day one, Danny was accepted as part of the team, regardless of his disability and daily challenges.
“He is treated just like everyone else. He attends practices and games and is in on all the jokes. He shares both the highs and lows of the team. To be included in such a manner has gone a long way in helping Danny build the skills that will be transferable to any future career path he may explore.”
REACH and the Hawkeyes are looking to continue the effort in the future.
“We are very optimistic that we will be able to continue our strong collaborative effort with men’s basketball so that future REACH students will have the same wonderful opportunity as Danny has experienced this year,” said Larson. “We would love to continue having a REACH student intern with men’s basketball every year.”
To the learn more about the UI REACH program, click HERE.