ANKENY, Iowa — There’s a kitchen at DMACC where students are chopping, measuring and mixing up ingredients as part of a program called STRIVE Academy. It stands for Selected Training Received In Vocational Education. The goal is to teach young adults with disabilities the skills they need to live on their own.

“Oh my gosh, it’s amazing,” says instructor Karey Palmer. “Just amazing!”

She’s been with the program since it started eight years ago. Before that she was teaching special education in a small district in southeast Iowa.

“I think we’ve done a really great job K-12 but once they graduate and age out at the age of 21, that disability doesn’t go away.”

“It just makes my heart full,” says John Kliegl. “Walking here brought back a lot of memories about the joy that Abby had.”

Abby is his daughter. She’s the reason STRIVE Academy exits. After high school she attended a program like this at Iowa Lakes Community College.

“The school system allowed Abby to go there and some local parents were like, ‘John, why isn’t this at DMACC?’” John said.

He asked leaders here the same question, and the next year STRIVE Academy launched – with Abby as a member of the first class.

“She had a great experience,” says John. “We want them living independently and that’s exactly what STRIVE Academy does – allows them to transition from academics to independent living skills.”

The students live in DMACC housing, they visit local companies to learn about jobs, and go on field trips.

“One year I learned I had students that didn’t know how to order their own food in a restaurant,” Karey explains. “So, we practiced that, worked on that.”

It’s all designed to expand their horizons and get them to think big.

“They deserve this,” says Karey. “Just because they have a disability, doesn’t make them less or make them deserve less.”

The next informational meeting on campus is Dec. 1 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. To learn more about the program just visit the STRIVE Academy website.