As they learn skills to help them work with people with differing abilities in both classroom and community contexts, advocating for those they support is paramount – and that includes reaching out to the broader community with an event that models the change they want to see – and be in the world.
“We want to plant the seed of change and watch them grow,” says student organizer Jenny Bowes. “Our event asks people to imagine a world without barriers that celebrates everyone’s diverse abilities. What would that look like to you? We want to know everyone’s vision for inclusion.”
Students in the Selkirk College Classroom and Community Support Worker Program have put on the Celebration of Diverse Ability on the Castlegar Campus for over a decade. The theme of this year’s event is “Imagine…” and it will take place on March 27.
Students in the CCSW Program at Selkirk College invite the community to the 11 annual celebration of diverse abilities event taking place on Monday, March 27 from 12 to 2 p.m. in The Pit on the Castlegar campus. It’s free and fun focused.
The popular gathering of inclusion features games, entertainment, interactive art and guest speakers along with food and refreshments. Last year over 200 people attended including folks from local Community Living organizations, students in Selkirk College’s Transitional Training Programs and local dignitaries along with the Selkirk College and general community.
Planning the annual event is a powerful learning experience for students – and different each year. Four teams of students make it all happen, stage, activity, promotion and décor. This year the organizing class plans on performing a fully-inclusive flash mob-style dance to Can't Stop the Feeling! by Justin Timberlake and they welcome everyone to join in and learn the moves.
“We want everyone to feel welcome to join in. It’s about saying all really means all. There is no us and them at this event, just US,” says student organizer Jennifer Gregor.
Instructor Jane Green says for many years people with diverse abilities went from having things done to them to having things done for them, and then with them. It’s important for people training in this profession today to take that one step further.
“We want to help others recognize that all people have differences in the way they move through the world, not necessarily disabilities,” she says. “For so long, there were barriers put up that prevented people from using and celebrating their true gifts. We want to turn these walls into bridges where we learn from those we support as much as they learn from us.”
The annual event at the Castlegar Campus is always full of great energy as it brings together people of diverse abilities from all across the West Kootenay-Boundary.
Students in the nine-month CCSW certificate program learn skills to help them work with people with differing ability in both classroom and community contexts. Graduates find exciting and essential work as Education Assistants, Job Coaches and Community Support Workers across the lifespan. As part of the Human Services Department, the CCSW certificate can be a prerequisite for entry into the college’s Child and Youth Care Specialty Diploma. The program combines theoretical work and practical skills development for graduates to assist people as educational assistants in the schools or with life skills, recreation, residential living and employment supports.
For people who attend this annual event, the Celebration of Diverse Ability has become “their party.”
“Let’s all connect where we are, find our similarities and accept our differences,” says student organizer Carol Shypitka. “Meet new friends and find out what you can do when you dare to dream and plant seeds of change.”