The University of Lethbridge will be cheering on all of its graduating students during convocation, but two students deserve special recognition.
Cassandra Guilbert and Margaret (Maggie) MacKay (pictured above), are the first students to be receiving a certificate of achievement through the University’s inclusive education initiative.
“It’s really going to be an amazing and very special day for students who are supported by the initiative to have the opportunity, just like other students on campus, to be at convocation and walk the stage,” says Janelle Dyck, ULethbridge inclusive education coordinator.
ULethbridge first received funding for an inclusive education initiative in 2018 in partnership with Inclusion Alberta, a non-profit federation that advocates on behalf of children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families. To be eligible for a post-secondary inclusive education program, adults must meet the criteria as set out by the Persons with Developmental Disabilities program.
Students are registered as Open Studies students, have access to all student services and receive audit grading for courses as they pursue individualized learning goals related to regular course content. They complete modified assignments and exams to demonstrate their learning, attend classes with their peers and make new friends as they further their education. At the completion of their studies, students receive a certificate of achievement for auditing courses in the program of study they pursue. In these first four years, students have largely pursued studies in the Faculty of Arts & Science, and during the recent Spring term, a student pursued courses in the Faculty of Fine Arts.
“It feels good to be graduating,” says Guilbert. “I’m pretty proud of myself; I didn’t think I would make it this far. It was a good experience. I got to meet new people and also learn things in classes I didn’t even know about.”
Guilbert took classes in Women and Gender Studies, psychology, sociology and anthropology, with sociology being a favourite. She decided to attend ULethbridge because she wanted to learn new things and take part in university life. Now that she’s completed her studies, she hopes to find new employment and eventually get a place of her own. Guilbert currently works in retail and hopes to find a new position in an office or retail setting.
MacKay says she’s also happy to be graduating and the best part of her experience attending university is the friends she’s made. Since she missed out on in-person classes for the past couple of years, MacKay is considering continuing her studies this fall, following in the footsteps of her father, Dr. Bruce MacKay, a professor who taught in the School of Liberal Education, and her aunt Gillian, who’s also a professor.
“I learned a lot,” she says, adding one of her favourite courses was geography.
In addition to her studies, MacKay works at Mocha Local as a valued and contributing employee of the team assembling meal kits.
“It’s important for all students and even the campus community to understand that it’s not just academics why students would pursue post-secondary,” says Dyck. “Students who are supported by the initiative right now are making connections with other students and the campus community as a whole, building on their confidence and independence and preparing for securing meaningful employment as well.”
Last fall, the inclusive initiative throughout the province secured indefinite funding and expansion. The University of Lethbridge was one post-secondary chosen for expansion and in February, an educational facilitator was hired to support three additional students beginning studies in the Fall 2022 term. As the first students complete their studies, the initiative is currently accepting applications for new prospective students. To find out more about the initiative on campus, contact Dyck at email@example.com.
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