Life is hard enough without having to deal with issues most of us take for granted. That’s why, since its founding in 2010, the College’s REACH Program has helped more than 100 students with intellectual or cognitive disabilities make it on their own, people like Randon Strange ’16 of Metter, Ga., who enrolled at the urging of a friend.
“It’s one of the top programs in the country, and there was nothing like it where I grew up,” says Strange, who took full advantage of all REACH had to offer. Other students helped him improve homework and test results, while REACH staff taught him how to manage things that made him uncomfortable, like eye contact.
The program also arranged internships for him. “Randon started out with an internship in the MUSC mailroom, then he tried a computer repair internship, but he kept going back to mail services,” says Edie Vardsveen Cusack ’90, executive director of the REACH Program.
Upon his graduation, Strange’s passion for mail services led him to apply to be a mail services postal courier at the College. He got the job and, while it was a tough decision to stay in Charleston, he knew he had the tools he needed to succeed.
“It’s not easy learning to do things on your own, but why leave Charleston where I had built so many relationships with such great people?” he says. “It just made sense to stay.”
That said, Strange regularly returns to Metter to visit his grandfather, Melvin Naprstek. Like the older people at his job, Naprstek helps guide him in the right direction.
Cusack, who bumped into Strange in 2017 on campus, still gets a tear in her eye when she remembers that day. “When I saw him and learned that he applied and got the job in mail services all on his own, I was so proud.
“His mother, who passed away soon after he graduated, got to see her son go through the job process and set up his home,” adds Cusack. “I know she is at peace knowing that he is doing well without her. Randon represents everything REACH graduates can achieve.”
Says Strange: “REACH helped me grow up and become a respectable adult.”
He couldn’t be happier with his current job, which utilizes many aspects of his communications concentration.
“It’s a great place to work,” he says. “Everyone comes in, even on a Monday, with a great attitude. People are always cracking jokes. It puts people in the right mood.”
Still, it’s not all fun and games. Strange still had to prove his worth over the first two years before becoming full-time staff in mail services.
“It’s amazing what hard work and sticking with something will get you,” he says. “Thanks to Edie Cusack, REACH really gives students like me a good college education.”
And that education gave him the life skills to succeed on his own.
Featured image of Randon Strange by Heather Moran