Students Care, founded by UI students, starts official student organization on campus

After a year and a half of connecting UI students to students with disabilities, providing one-on-one care, tutoring, and more, Students Care is expanding by creating College Students Care.


Hannah Kinson

John Woodruff, president of the new student organization on campus, College Students Care and the director of marketing for Students Care is pictured on Monday, March 11, 2019.

Kinsey Phipps, News Reporter

Without Students Care, organization cofounder Michael Penniman wouldn’t be able to attend the University of Iowa. Now, the nonprofit is expanding outreach by introducing College Students Care, a student organization on campus.

Penniman became a quadriplegic after an accident in 2012, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan. In October 2017, Penniman and two friends, Peter Easler and Jacob Newcomb, founded Students Care after professional home-care failed in meeting Penniman’s needs.

The nonprofit connects disabled students with other UI students to assist in meeting needs that traditional home-care cannot, director of marketing John Woodruff said.

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Students Care provides tutoring, transportation, and individualized care for disabled clients on or around the UI campus, Woodruff said. The nonprofit currently serves six clients, but they are looking to expand outreach and engagement. That’s where College Students Care comes in, he said.

“[Students Care] opened my eyes to a lot of struggles I don’t have to deal with on a daily basis. The more aware you are of other people’s struggles, the more empathetic you become,” Woodruff said. “I’ve become a much better person. It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to make a tangible and impactful difference in someone’s life.”

Woodruff is a third-year student at the UI studying business who got involved with Students Care last summer. Since then, he has served on the executive board and as a caretaker. Additionally, Woodruff is now the president of College Students Care.

College Students Care will work with Student Disability Services, Iowa REACH, UI Students for Disability Advocacy & Awareness, and such groups as pre-physical therapy, pre-occupational therapy, and pre-medicine clubs to get students involved in the organization, Penniman said.

RELATED: UI students start nonprofit to assist classmates with disabilities

College Students Care will host social events to connect potential clients with other students on campus. The more people who are willing to get involved, Woodruff said, the more people they can help. Students understand busy schedules, from irregular class times to extracurriculars.

Those with disabilities have extra needs as they go about their day, and students helping other students works best because they know life on campus, Woodruff said.

“It gives students with disabilities a chance at college everyone deserves,” Woodruff said.

The executive board for Students Care is made entirely of UI students, director of fundraising Erika Harvey said. Because the nonprofit is already run by students, she said, it’s a great opportunity for others on campus to get involved and make their mark, she said.

Hannah Kinson
Erika Harvey, director of finance for Students Care is pictured on March 11.

“Having a student organization is a way for us to be able to get involved and become aware,” Harvey said. “We are pretty excited about it because we feel that there are a lot of opportunities there.”

Recently, Students Care has expanded to Iowa State University. It is currently tutoring one client and working on expansion to serve needs in Ames, Penniman said. Students Care hopes to one day expand to as many campuses as possible, Woodruff said.

“We hire separate care teams for every client we pick up. Those bonds really get built,” Penniman said. “This is a way forward for those with disabilities — intellectual, physical, whatever it may be — it’s a way forward to be involved.”