The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI grad works to help those with disabilities, learns more in return

In her three years working in the UI REACH Program, fourth-year Clare Greer looks to continue working with those with disabilities after graduation.
Ryan Paris
MaryClare Greer is seen in a Daum study lounge in Iowa City, Iowa, on Friday April 12, 2024. Greer is a resident assistant for the UI REACH program.

Before she was ever a student at the University of Iowa, fourth-year Clare Greer had a passion for working with people who have physical and intellectual disabilities.

When her younger sister was born, she was diagnosed with Down syndrome and spent a lot of time in the hospital and doctors’ offices for different appointments. Greer was with her through it all.

Greer, who is from Iowa City, said she has a tight bond with her sister, and have been able to stay during her time at the UI. They can often be seen playing piano together, and Greer said they’d play all day long if they could.

“She doesn’t use words to communicate, but I always tell people she loves people more and says more than people who use words without saying anything,” Greer said. “She contributes way more than most people do their entire lives just by being who she is.”

Her exposure to health care and watching her sister grow up showed Greer that she wanted to pursue health care herself and help people like her sister. Greer will be graduating from the UI College of Nursing in December and said she’s excited for the chance to care for those who need it, especially since she’s seen the impact people can have when they don’t care for those in need.

After her first year at the UI, Greer applied to be a resident assistant. She said she didn’t even know what the UI REACH Program, a transition program for college-aged students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities, was until she began applying to be an RA. As soon as she was thrown into the position, she fell in love with it.

She said she had to learn a lot for the job, but her experiences in her family prepared her to work with all the students in the program.

“They all have very different experiences in life and different ways of approaching things, but one thing that’s in common is they’re all people,” Greer said.

UI REACH Student Life Program Specialist Kendal Best said Greer has done tons for the growth of the program and she is sad to see her go. Over her three years in the program, Best said Greer has connected her with many people who run other programs for people who have disabilities and takes the time to go to all of their meetings.

“She’s just a great advocate for the program,” Best said. “People will often come to me and go, ‘Hey, I didn’t know about your program, but I heard about it from your RA Clare,’ which has been really great. UI REACH is something that a lot of people don’t know about, so having somebody who loves their role so much that they’re willing to share as much as they can has been wonderful.”

Greer said her favorite memories of being in the program are all the random moments she’s been able to share with her residents. She said they often walk around with her while she’s doing her rounds and tell her about their days or what they’re learning in class.

She said she sometimes catches herself standing outside of her door for almost an hour just chatting with a resident who walked by.

“You can’t help but want to spend time with your residents,” she said. “I would encourage anyone to do it but expect it’s going to be a challenge in a really good way. It definitely is life-changing.”

One of her favorite UI REACH traditions is the graduation parties they hold at the end of every academic year.

“It’s always bittersweet because it’s exciting to see them move on and hear about what’s coming next for them, but then also sad because the year flies by, and then you’re like, ‘Wait, you’re leaving already?’” Greer said.

Outside the RA program, Greer has been involved with The Navigators, a Christian student organization. She is currently a worship leader, plays piano during meetings, and guides the younger members. She said her work in the worship group has contributed a lot to her work as an RA and vice versa.

If she had more time at the UI, Greer said she would’ve gotten a certificate in disability studies, but as a nurse, she wants to continue advocating for people who have disabilities and learning more about them and how to care for them.

RELATED: UI students advocate for physical space for students with disabilities

Her plan is to stay in Iowa City for a year or two but possibly pursue travel nursing in a few years. She said she then plans to return to school after five years of working in the field.

“I’m really interested in nutrition education and health promotion to prevent the development of chronic disease,” Greer said. “That goes really well with people with disabilities because there’s more tailored and specific education that would be really helpful for certain people, and they don’t have access to it.”

Best said she could not have asked for a better student to work with during her first years in her position and loved seeing Greer grow in her own life.

“She has a leadership role I never would have dreamed of in my first year,” Best said. “She gives and gives and gives and doesn’t ask anything in return. She knows what students are capable of and doesn’t do things for them, but does them with them to support them, which is a hard skill to learn. It’s been great to see.”

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Grace Olson
Grace Olson, News Reporter
Grace Olson is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. She's a news reporter for The DI, reporting primarily on local government. She is from Denver, Colorado and worked on the pirnt publication from her high school prior to her work in college.