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U of I REACH Graduation

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- The University of Iowa REACH program gives students with learning disabilities the chance to get the full college experience. It culminated in a graduation ceremony that left students and parents beaming with pride. In all, 27 graduates made their way across the stage at the Pappajohn Business Building.

On first glance, Fridays graduation ceremony appeared to be a normal graduation...

I still can't believe I'm doing a speech in front of all you people out there, Emily Sluyters said to the crowd gathered at the auditorium at the Pappajohn building.

You soon realize its far more than that. Its a room where impossible doesn't exist - a room where journeys end, while even greater ones begin.

I didn't think I could do it, but look at me now, graduate Nick Locascio says.

Emily, for instance, came into the REACH program two years ago with a sense of uncertainty.

After high school you really wonder what you're going to do with your children, says Loretta Sluyters, Emilys mom. Where they're going to go, how they're going to succeed, what they're going to do in life.

That's especially true when that child has a learning disability. However, no" wasn't in Emily's vocabulary. Two years later, with her family standing behind her all the way, she made it through.

I graduated! Emily says, clutching her diploma. It feels good, I feel so accomplished, I feel like I can take on anything.

Next on that 'anything' list: a career in child care.

Her classmate Nick Locascio isnt done quite yet either.

I'm going to go to Harper Community college in Illinois to get my para-educator certificate, Locascio says.  

He and his fellow graduates leave with that similar feeling - that they can accomplish anything.

In the midst of all that, just in time for Mothers day, their families and a few special moms leave with a present money couldn't buy.

Whenever a mom can see her child graduate, it's a gift, says Nicks mother Laura Locascio.

Emilys mother echoed that feeling.

I feel really excited, I feel proud, she says. I took her home 20 years ago, and I'm taking her home again now. That's my mother's day present.
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