Invisible Disability No Obstacle for Jesuit Grad
When Zachary Reichenbach transferred to Wheeling Jesuit University to complete a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and play rugby, he did not anticipate the many positive learning experiences in store for him during his college journey.
Nor did he envision that his dedication to academics would earn him recognition as the 2016 recipient of the Manning Award for Academic Success.
This award is named for 2010 alumnus Shawn Manning and is given each year to a WJU graduate who, like Manning, achieves personal and academic success while meeting the challenges of a visible or invisible disability.
Reichenbach, a native of Hammonton, N.J., earned the Manning Award for his success despite his specific learning disability, which was diagnosed in elementary school.
“I am grateful to my parents, Patti and Albert Reichenbach, who were positive and encouraging. They pushed me to succeed and supported me 100 percent in whatever I wanted to learn or try. My dad told me that I need to learn to work with my brain instead of my back,” he said.
Reichenbach plans to work with and encourage young people with disabilities because he knows how vital the guidance and inspiration from his elementary school teachers were for him.
“It took me longer to process some information, but my teachers taught me to never give up and taught me strategies I needed to succeed,” he said. Reichenbach would like to emulate those teachers.
Dr. Jane Neuenschwander, one of his professors in the professional education department, said, “Zak is a young man who took advantage of every learning opportunity at WJU. He made the most of the positive support from faculty, coaches, teammates and university resources.”
Reichenbach said that a rigorous four-year liberal arts university, like WJU, is challenging and requires hard work. However, he realized that it was a positive experience for him to begin his higher education at a community college.
“Going to community college for a year before coming to WJU was a time when I could mature a bit, gain time management and study skills, and learn to focus on what I needed to do to be a college student. Community college also gave me some time to decide what I really wanted to pursue as a career.”
While at WJU, he did not allow his learning disability to hold him back from success in the classroom or on the athletic field. He served as a resident assistant, was captain of the rugby team for three years and twice made the Dean’s List.
Kathy Tagg, director of Disability Services at WJU, added, “Zak was not hesitant to utilize the few accommodations he needed to lessen the impact of his invisible learning disability so his true abilities and knowledge could shine through. He loves to learn and ask questions. When necessary, Zak chose to meet with peer tutors from the Academic Resource Center, a campus resource available to all students who want to achieve academic success. He never allowed his disability to prevent him from achieving his goals.”
Reichenbach offers others some advice: “Do not be afraid to ask for help or to use available resources — that is how you learn.”