Inclusive education program creates opportunity for students
Daniel Prada will pursue his passion for coaching after graduating
By Casey Blais
Like so many graduating students before him, Daniel Prada will proudly walk the stage during the University of Calgary’s convocation ceremony today. At that moment, five years of classes, assignments, and exams will conclude as he accepts a certificate of completion from the Inclusive Post-Secondary Education program (IPSE).
It will be a moment Prada has earned and deserves, and it represents a struggle through adversity not yet widely understood. Launched in 1992, IPSE provides individuals who have developmental disabilities with an authentic university experience.
“I’m excited to walk the stage and be done school,” says Prada, smiling broadly when asked what he was most looking forward to about convocation.
There is much for Prada to be excited about. He has a goal to work toward a career as a coach and he'll use all the skills and experiences he's had in university, including: his focus on classes in kinesiology; his summer jobs working with the Mini University daycamps; his part-time employment with the DINOS as a ticket seller; his volunteer activities in the community as an assistant coach with two elementary school sports teams and the International Children’s Festival, and he will work toward a career in sport.
His advice to his fellow grads reflects his driven nature and his optimism: “Don’t be scared looking for work."
Part of Prada's optimism for the future can be attributed to the success of the IPSE program, which provides adult learners with developmental disabilities the opportunity for an authentic and inclusive university experience.
Course planning and scheduling, course modifications and access to a network of peer and campus supports are just some of the benefits.
The impact on the students is considerable — they make social connections, develop relationships, meet new people and connect with peers. The challenge is academic as well — for many learners, university is the first time they will have taken an exam.
“Inclusive post-secondary education adds so much value to the students’ lives by providing an inclusive and challenging educational environment,” says Miceala Cummings, co-director of the IPSE program. “The amount of growth we see in the students is immeasurable to any other time in their lives.”
Prada is a good example. When he first started university, it was very difficult for other people to understand him, but the experiences of the past five years have helped to improve his speech dramatically.
All this support bodes well for Prada's future too. According to Cummings, participation in inclusive education means he is much more likely to work than many of his peers, a difficult reality faced by adults with developmental disabilities.
Daniel is one of 15 students in the Inclusive Post-Secondary Education program. The program has been operating since 1992 and is run by the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Society of Alberta. The Government of Alberta funds the program.
Published online, June 11, 2014 at https://www.ucalgary.ca/utoday/issue/2014-06-11/inclusive-education-program-creates-opportunity-students