STEPS Forward - Inclusive Post-Sec. Ed.Youth w/ Dev.Disabilities
Post-secondary education is often one of the highlights of a person’s life—having the opportunity to make new friends, experience personal growth, expand knowledge, gain independence, access job markets and open new horizons.
Imagine being excluded from this opportunity due to a disability and then having the support to make this possible! This is the work of STEPS Forward.
STEPS Forward’s mission is to make it unremarkable for students with developmental disabilities to learn, develop careers and pursue their passions alongside other students at universities and colleges across British Columbia. We support students with developmental disabilities to be fully included in all aspects of regular campus life. This means taking classes, participating in athletic activities, joining clubs, or using the library with all other students-- regardless of the nature of the disability.
Inclusive post-secondary education brings the real possibility of meaningful employment, richer lives, hope, confidence, skills, and independence. This is in stark contrast to the present situation in British Columbia for many. Often young people with developmental disabilities. complete high school but have no further options for inclusion due to a lack of support. This frequently leads to isolation, depression, and significant stress for both the person and their family.
We have operated for ten years and support students with developmental disabilities at six colleges or universities in British Columbia. The staff of STEPS Forward assists students to select programs of study and complete course work on an auditing basis. Students work to their level of ability and receive a completion certificate from the college or university at the end of their studies. Like other students, they are supported to find summer employment that enables them to save for books, courses and student fees. Once the student completes four to five years of study, we assist the individual to find long term employment matched to that individual’s area of interest and aligned with personal career goals. Seventy percent of students we have supported at college or university are employed. Our newest initiative is a partnership with the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology to support Aboriginal students with developmental disabilities in inclusive programs of study. We are honoured to collaborate with this local community in helping to support young adults with developmental disabilities at their local college or university, thereby strengthening their connections to culture and community.
**The essence of why this matters:**
People who live with a disability, like all people, can lead meaningful lives as valuable and contributing citizens, with the right support.
Students have told us that they appreciate being treated as responsible adults. But most important, they love having friends. For some students it is the first time they are treated as valued equals. The experience of being a university student, learning alongside others, pursuing areas of interest, participating in university life, making friends and connections, can make a lifelong difference in the lives of people who might otherwise have little opportunity to develop personal capabilities. Inclusive post-secondary education gives these young adults a better chance to access the job market and to have fuller, more rewarding lives, just as post secondary education provides a better outcome for all of us.
At root, this initiative is about social change. It not only benefits students who are otherwise vulnerable to exclusion; but allows for our future leaders, professors and employers to get to know people with disabilities and discover their talents, skills and abilities. Connections develop over time that can have life changing results as people come to know one another and myths and preconceptions are banished.
___“Inclusion is the foundation of the house. It is not a guarantee, but rather a precondition for the growth and development of full and healthy human beings.” (Dr. Marsha Forest and Jack Pearpoint).___
STEPS Forward provides bursaries for students who cannot afford to attend, so that financial ability is not a criterion for eligibility.
Our non-profit board is comprised of dedicated families and community members who have volunteered many hours to ensure that inclusive post-secondary education continues to be an option for students in B.C.
We hope that AVIVA will award us $100,000 so that students on six different campuses in the province will have the opportunity to continue with their campus experience and enjoy a strong start in life.
Education is vital to these students’ well being and inclusive education is vital to the well- being of our communities. Please help us accomplish this with your support.
We thank AVIVA in advance for your consideration in strengthening our communities through your assistance.