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Agency inspires ‘novel’ idea

Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Marcus Jarvis

Marcus Jarvis

SIOUX CITY – Marcus Jarvis has one book published, another getting ready to be published and yet a third roughly outlined. Not bad for a 19-year-old. Wait…what?

That’s right. Marcus, who is completing his first year at Western Iowa Tech Community College, is not only a published author but he’s also on track to be a high school English teacher. His accomplishments are impressive for anyone, let alone for someone so young. But Marcus isn’t just anyone. He is autistic.

While being autistic can throw special challenges to those on the spectrum, Marcus managed to circumvent them thanks in large part to the team at the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS), which is the Iowa Department of Education’s largest division.

Kristin Kalin, vocational rehabilitation counselor

Kristin Kalin, vocational rehabilitation counselor

While IVRS may have one of the smallest profiles among state agencies, its work is ubiquitous. The agency extends to all 99 counties and in every high school, community college and regent university in the state.

The agency assists Iowans with disabilities – both students and adults – in obtaining, maintaining and advancing employment through its rehabilitation services. As with each client, the agency designs individualized plans according to disability and work needs.

In addition, IVRS provides services to the business community to match workforce needs.

In 2020, IVRS served 15,348 job candidates, ages 14 through adulthood.

Kalin’s work for the agency focuses on high school students in the Sioux City area. Working with about 100 students, she focuses on everything from fundamental life skills (such as how to ride a bus) to mapping strategies for students beyond high school. But graduating from high school isn’t the end of her work with the student.

“I work with students after they graduate - young adults – just to keep them focused on pursuing what they want to do,” she said. That work ends when they are successfully employed.

Without IVRS, students and adults with disabilities would largely be on their own in pursuing careers.

Kalin’s focus – connecting students to what they want to pursue with their careers – work to ensure people with disabilities are as independent as they are able to be.

“Teachers and counselors don’t have the time or resources to invest this much time in each student with disabilities,” Kalin said. “That is the sole purpose of my job.”

Marcus first came to the attention of IVRS colleagues when he was referred to them in ninth grade by his teacher.

“His teacher thought Marcus might benefit from having extra support in figuring out his career and college,” Kalin said. “His teacher saw his drive and motivation to succeed.”

Over the next few years, Marcus went on college visits with IVRS colleagues and was connected with creative writing programs.

“We talked to him about the education field – what kind of training it requires,” Kalin said. “He also wanted to look into being a DJ for a radio station, so we lined up a job shadow for him. From his experience with that, he decided against pursuing being a DJ. Job shadows are not only to find what you’re looking for but discovering what you are not interested in pursuing.”

One thing that stood out to IVRS colleagues – Marcus’s passion for helping people and his love for kids. The education field seemed like a natural fit.

“But Marcus wasn’t sure if he would be a good teacher,” Kalin said. “But he’s very patient and smart, and we could see that he would be a great teacher.”

After encouragement, she added, “he finally saw the light,” noting that Marcus is attending community college for two years before transferring to the University of Northern Iowa where he will pursue education.

Marcus is excited about his teaching future.

“I want to always be learning about literature,” he said. “If I teach the students, I will also be learning from the students. The thirst for knowledge is what really drives me.”

That is not to say that Marcus won’t continue his passion for writing books.

His published book, The Potter’s Field Tragedy, has already sold over 200 copies on Amazon. The story takes place during the Dust Bowl – a period in history that Marcus finds fascinating – in which townspeople turn on one another fighting for limited resources during the cataclysmic, man-made disaster.

“Except for Grapes of Wrath, there is a lack of fictional stories during the Dust Bowl,” Marcus said. “What I find interesting about the Dust Bowl was that it was a disaster that was man made where everything came together at just the right time.”

His next book – Hoover’s Rotten Apple, which is undergoing editing right now – also takes place in the 1930s, but is light fare about two homeless people unjustly accused of murder, and takes a humorous approach to their adventures trying to prove their innocence.

Marcus says he owes his success to the encouragement he received from his teachers and IVRS.

“Vocational rehabilitation has helped me so much,” he said. “They made me realize I wanted to be an English teacher. They sat me down and said, ‘you are a great writer, you have a passion for books, you could be a great teacher.’

“They led me through the process of finding the right schools and helping me figure out what I needed to do to get there. Without them, I can’t imagine what my future would have looked like. I know I wouldn’t have attended college without them.

“Between IVRS and high school, I developed a hunger for education. I learned social skills there, and felt as if I was in a safe space to find out who I am.”

Marcus knows who he is. A published author. On his way to being a high school English teacher. Not too bad for a 19-year-old, eh?

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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on July 05, 2022 at 4:44pm.