On April 17th, 2019 Annika Almquist received the acceptance letter that she never imagined she would receive.
Annika was born with a condition called Turner Syndrome; mosaic, ring chromosome. This means that she has a rare genetic medical condition along with cognitive developmental delay.
When I first met Annika she greeted me with the biggest, most beautiful of smiles. That’s the first thing you notice about Annika and the last thing you remember. Her smile is bright and hard to forget.
I have had the pleasure of working with and sharing an office with Tama, Annika’s mom. What I learned from listening to the wonderful stories about Annika is that she is a valiant person who is passionate and upbeat in any situation. I heard stories of Annika’s ongoing dedication to getting a job which has led her to become a devoted daycare aide. You can see the love she has for her job and the devotion she has for the kids she works with. Her spirit is contagious. Unfortunately, I also learned that the only thing that has ever made Annika cry is the idea that she could never go to college. That shattered me to my core. So you can only imagine the excitement that Annika and her family had when they got Annika’s acceptance letter to the University of Iowa’s REACH (Realizing Education and Career Hope) Program (https://education.uiowa.edu/services/reach
Annika was committed, even still at age 25, to pursuing a college education and she never gave up. She and her family researched and toured many different college’s that provide unique programs to individuals with Autism and other cognitive and developmental delays. Annika’s top choice was always UI’s REACH Program because she would be given an opportunity to indulge in the full “college” and Big Ten experience. This is a two year program where the students live in dorms and get to attend both academic and social skills classes. The students go on outings that help them to develop friendships and expose them to many new experiences. They are also given opportunities for internships within the workplace. This is an opportunity of a lifetime for Annika-her dreams finally coming true.
Unfortunately this acceptance comes with financial constraints because there are no federal student loans available since UI’s REACH Program is not considered a “degree” as it is a certificate program. This again breaks my heart, so that leads me to this fundraiser. Annika’s full tuition for each year is due prior to the fall semesters starting in year 2020. The tuition cost is close to $48,000 per year, totaling $96,000. I have come to learn that Annika is saving every penny from her job to put towards tuition between now and then which will total roughly $22,000. I also know that her family is working diligently to pay a portion of Annika’s schooling as well, along with applying for scholarships, Pell Grants and possibly private loans if able. Unfortunately that will leave Annika about $40,000 short of the $96,000 total tuition cost.
Please help Annika’s dream come true and help her to reach her fullest achievements in her personal and social skills along with enhancing her education and independence. Any contribution will make a great difference in such a beautiful woman's life.