By Megan Schultz

I was first referred to VR and The Transition Alliance Program (TAP) in 2015. I was involved with the TAP Program while in high school and throughout college. I received assistance with career assessment, college/career planning, job shadows, informational interviews, and Dyslexia Training. Through these experiences, I learned how to advocate for myself.

My original career goal was to be some sort of a teacher, but I was unsure what age or kind. I shadowed teachers at Carver Elementary, Jefferson Middle School, and talked with a few teachers I had senior year. It was through this experience that I knew I wanted to teach. I remember Jean Wuertzer coming into my Academic Assistance class and doing activities and talking about the “real world” we were about to enter after graduation. She talked about working and helped us get connected with the school-to-work program and other places. My class really worked with Jean closely as this new program could have great success if we bought into what she was teaching us. The class I was in worked really well with Jean–we got to know her as much as she got to know us. Jean specifically helped me with getting a job at St. Mark Youth Enrichment, where I became a paraprofessional and worked with school-age students from all different backgrounds in Peosta.

In 2016, I graduated from high school and went on to Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) for my associates with an intent to transfer for some sort of teaching. I knew a four-year college wasn’t the best fit right away due to some of my learning challenges. Jean helped me talk to Disability Services about receiving accommodations. She made sure to frequently check in and see how things were going and my grades. During my time as a full-time student at NICC, I worked 5 different jobs. These included a cafeteria role at NICC, an office associate in the TRIO Student Support Services Office, and a member of the student leadership team. I also worked in the admissions department, where I planned activities for students and traveled on two service trips to Colorado and Tennessee. I was also a paraprofessional with St. Mark Youth Enrichment, where I rose to become a site lead at the Peosta program in two short years. Lastly, I was a nursery attendant on Sundays for a local church. With all these experiences working with people and having Jean’s expertise, I decided to change my path and major in Social Work at Loras College. In December 2019, I graduated from NICC with a high-grade point average. I was the Commencement speaker for the Spring class of 2020. Right before I went to Loras, I received a promotion with St. Mark Youth Enrichment, where I became site-lead for Seton Catholic, Peosta Elementary School, and also a Program Specialist for all of Western Dubuque Community School District. I was responsible for planning, executing, organizing activities, managing staff, connecting families to resources, and also working with school personnel.

I started school at Loras in January 2020 during a J-Term and then moved on to begin my Social Work classes. Little did I know, this was the year that Covid 19 would come to the US. and turn my schooling turned upside down. I remember questioning what I was even doing in school if everything was online. It was Jean who helped me make sure my head was on straight. She checked in on me several times to make sure I was doing ok, make sure school was going well, and see if she could do anything to support me in finishing my degree. After 6 years of employment with St. Mark Youth Enrichment, I decided it was time for a change so I could focus on finishing school. When it came time for my field placement, I knew I wanted to be back in a school, working with students just like myself. I reached out to Jean to see if she would be open to me coming and learning more about the TAP. After discussing a possible internship with the program, she first had to find out if it was even an option because there had never been a TAP intern before in the Dubuque Community School District. Lori and Jean talked to many people in the district and jumped through a lot of hoops. I was essentially the guinea pig for the TAP program to see if it worked. It seemed like everything fell into place like it was supposed to.

In the Spring of 2022, I started my field placement with the TAP program. I floated between Dubuque Hempstead and Dubuque Senior, where I got to see the TAP program and Voc Rehab work their magic. This helped make my own journey make more sense. I built relationships with students just like I did with Jean during my time in TAP. Working with Jean and Paige gave me firsthand knowledge about all this program entails, As my time working with the TAP program as an intern came to an end, I learned that I won the Jane Addams Award,  which is given to a student who works really hard in and out of the classroom, and to someone who will make a big difference in the lives of others. After receiving this award, I knew I wasn’t ready for my time to end with the TAP program. I applied and interviewed for an open position in the TAP program at Dubuque Senior as a job coach. I quickly graduated after that this Spring with my Bachelor of Social Work in the Spring of 2022.

Fast forward to Summer when I started working for the school district on July 6th as a job coach.  I was quickly thrown into my role with summer camp with the school year approaching quickly. I have been employed for 6 months as a job coach. I work with job candidates and students out in the community. I use my social work knowledge to work with families and teachers during Pre-ETS activities and VR meetings. Over time I hope to grow with the district or somewhere I can use my knowledge to give back to others. I’m so glad I decided to take this path, but I’m unsure if I would be to this point had it not been for the TAP staff (Jean Wuertzer, Lori Anderson, Paige Thoma, Julie Milligan), VR staff but especially Jason Rubel, Loras Professors (Nancy and Michelle), NICC staff, and my family.

I’m proof if we take the time and build relationships with students in high school when they are young, really listen to what they want to do with their life, provide support, and assist when needed, this program really works. Written by Megan Schultz

“Megan engaged with TAP and IVRS to a high degree throughout high school and beyond.  The work she put in on her self-advocacy skills and the level of confidence she gained were apparent by the time she entered college. Her level of engagement with everything she does has got her where she is and will serve her well in the future.” 
– Jason Rubel