Special-needs student faces barriers to post secondary education

Okanagan College campus not funded to provide courses for people who need one-on-one assistance

Like many other young people, Leon Yanko would like to pursue post secondary education.

But Leon has Down syndrome and faces barriers that make accessing further training difficult.

Leon graduated from Salmon Arm Senior Secondary (SAS) in 2018 and returned to the high school in the fall to complete Grade 13. He also attended a special course at Okanagan College for one semester.

But the college offers no other courses that could accommodate Leon at this time. And, while many students relocate to other communities to further their education, it is not a viable option for Leon.

But options are exactly something his mother Sonya is hoping to uncover.

“He can read and write, but not at a level required for what is available now,” says Sonya, who is grateful SAS allowed her son to return to the school for Grade 13. “At school he has an assistant; he needs extra guidance, help with comprehension.”

Read more: Provincial funds not adequate for four-year-old boy’s health needs

While barriers do exist, there is a lot Leon can and does accomplish.

From 8:30 to 9:15 on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at SAS, Leon operates his own business, Classic Coffee, where he serves coffee and good cheer to the tune of classic rock music.

He is currently helping out at Andover Terrace on Monday and Wednesday mornings setting tables. What he loves to do is work in the kitchen but cannot do that as he needs modified Foodsafe training, something Sonya is trying to secure for her son.

“We’ve been through the school system and Community Living, we’re all entitled to an education but these guys are not included because they’re level 1 (need assistance), so they don’t get to go to college which I think is absolutely wrong,” Sonya says. She believes many special-needs individuals would benefit by local community college training. “If they can be educated and get a trade, then it goes back into our community, they’re part of everybody’s lives, but there’s nowhere for them to go.”

Read more: Loft program offers friendship, fun

Read more: Shuswap Connextions seeks inclusion

Karen Sansom, associate dean of Arts and Foundational Programs at Okanagan College agrees training is limited by the fact that the funding the college receives to offer the program on a tuition-free basis only affords one full-time instructor and a part-time assistant.

“Generally Wanda (Radies) is not able to accommodate Level 1 students, other than in a few courses that can accommodate a wide range of abilities, such as the course that Sonya’s son did take in the fall semester,” she says.

Community Living British Columbia facilitator and social worker Jenny Kucy will take Leon’s case on as of May 19 when he turns 19.

Sonya is hoping a March 1 meeting with Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo will help open up some avenues. She has also been invited to get in touch with the Salmon Arm Employment Service Centre.

In the meantime, Sonya is inviting other parents and caregivers in similar situations to get in touch with her in order to provide a louder voice by email to nelsonavich@hotmail.com.


@SalmonArm
barb.brouwer@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Word on the street: How do you spend a snow day?

When snow cancels school and your boss tells you to stay home,… Continue reading

Sports Shorts

Keep up to date with local sporting events and news segments Curling… Continue reading

Photo reminds Salmon Arm resident of connection to former drama teacher Justin Trudeau

Prime minister remembered as being as a funny, larger-than-life person

Dining moose a welcome distraction at Salmon Arm campus

Pair feast on willows, unperturbed by onlookers at Okanagan College

Woman convicted in Salmon Arm love triangle murder granted escorted temporary absences

Monica Sikorski was 17 when she plotted shooting death of 22-year-old Tyler Myers

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

B.C. town spends $14.14 per resident for snow removal in one month

Costs of snow removal to the Town of Princeton skyrocketed in December.… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Most Read