Traditionally, we think of teaching as adults instructing youth. While this is mostly true, sometimes it’s the other way around. Such is the case with the Grade 5 class at Deloraine School. This class is unique in that they have included and embraced their classmate Adam from the first day of Kindergarten. Adam has some intellectual and learning disabilities and his classmates have found creative ways to reach out and help him. Donna McGregor, resource teacher at the school has observed this in action for the past five years, and when she learned about Inclusion Westman, she felt strongly the class should be nominated for an award.
Inclusion Westman is a voluntary not-for-profit organization committed to enriching the lives of people who live with a developmental disability in the Westman region by promoting their full inclusion in the community. Its Vision: Inclusion Westman is dedicated to the full inclusion participation, and acceptance of every individual living with a developmental disability. Its vision is to create a community that embraces the individual’s right to make choices and have control in their lives, as well as the right to grow, learn, work, retire, and share the experiences of an inclusive lifestyle.
On June 9, Inclusion Westman held its 2nd annual Night of Inclusion Awards Gala at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium in Brandon. As nominees for the Youth Citizenship Award, the Grade 5 class and its teachers and education assistants were invited to the event. To say they were excited about the nomination and attending a ‘gala’ is a huge understatement.
When the bus arrived, Adam met them at the door and it was big smiles all around. Clearly, there is a special bond with Adam and his classmates. Note: In speaking to one student about the upcoming gala, she said, “Oh, I wonder if there will be a chocolate fountain?” Much to her delight a chocolate fountain was among the delicious refreshments.
Kristin Bryce Letkeman, Executive Director, Inclusion Westman was the master of ceremonies. “It’s so great to be in a room full of like-minded people. We are better together as a society.” She continued by reading out Inclusion Westman’s mission and listing some of its activities including:
• Developing positions and polices that promote positive changes and bring them to every level of government
• Host family forums to discuss issues, formulate responses and work on resolution
• Offer seminars and information sessions for families and developmentally disabled adults
• Assist families in navigating the service system
• Ensure individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are aware of their rights and what is available to them
• Create opportunities for networking
• Provide advocacy
• Offer an Inclusive Post Secondary Education option at Brandon University for students leaving modified high school programs
• And finally, host an annual Night of Inclusion Awards gala to celebrate people and organization who champion inclusion.
“We are very proud of our newest initiative – the inclusive post secondary at Brandon University — there are currently two students enrolled in this pilot project,” she said.
Danielle Logan, President of Inclusion Westman gave words of welcome and thanked all the nominees for their contributions. “We are fortunate to have grant funding from the Canadian Association of Community Living and Community Living Manitoba to promote the engagement of individual people with disabilities who have success,” she said. Throughout the program, videos of such success stories were presented — Scott’s Story, Bryce’s Story and Becky’s Story — about people who are living inclusive lives in Westman. You can view these videos on the website – www.inclusionwestman.ca
Career Connections Inc. Inclusive Employer Award — won by Mark Humphries of Westwood Ranch
Inclusive Education Award — won by Carla Jakubowski
Inclusive Recreation Award — Lucas Mikkelson
Exceptional Support Staff Award — Ken Sopp, support staff In The Company of Friends
Westoba Credit Union Lifetime Contribution Award — Pat Gouldie.
For more information about these awards and winners, please go to www.inclusionwestman.ca
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Youth Citizenship Award: Letkeman read the introduction of the winner:
Grade 5 Class of Deloraine School
“This story starts with a student named Adam. Adam has been embraced and included by his class since they all started Kindergarten together. At first, Adam needed a full time EA and close adult supervision in school. Right from the start though, his peers saw Adam’s abilities rather than his disabilities. Over time, the class has taken over many responsibilities with Adam: they are active in helping to keep him safe and engaged during outdoor recess, while eating lunch, and working in the classroom. One student, Charley, bikes with Adam to make sure he gets home, and with Adam having a trampoline in his backyard, there is always fun to be had when school is done!
These grade 5 students encourage Adam to use gestures or his iPad to communicate, and they respond to him with encouragement and appreciation, clearly valuing his friendship. Their teacher notices them thinking of ways to include Adam, whether that means he is being picked as a partner in group work, or him having the honour of laying a wreath at the Remembrance Day Ceremony. Adam’s Mom agrees that her son is full member and participant in his school and says he is kept busy! In support of this nomination, Adam’s mom wrote, “I Know you all treat him well because he is getting things done,” and “I think its because he feels secured and accepted at school” “Thank you all. “My family is very grateful.”
We were grateful to receive this powerful nomination, and it is my pleasure to announce that this year’s award for Youth Citizenship goes to the grade 5 class from Deloraine School!"
Upon hearing they had won, the students were genuinely surprised and awed. They were honoured with a standing ovation as they gathered together to accept the award. Millie Wilkinson spoke on behalf of her class — “Thank you so much. It’s not everyday that our school gets to do something super special. It’s a very cool thing.”
It was a night to remember and it appears that “inclusion” for the future is in very good hands!