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It’s a win-win’: U of R and employees benefit from inclusive, diverse work culture

Dylan Morin and Jarred MacDonald are true ambassadors of the University of Regina, embodying campus values like calm, care, and compassion. Since starting their jobs as caretakers with the U of R’s Custodial Services in January 2020, they have been tasked with the critical role of ensuring that the University is a clean, safe environment for those who are on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also take pride in welcoming visitors, students, faculty, and staff to campus with a smile – from behind a mask, of course – and a cheery “Hello!”

Across Canada, October is designated as Disability Employment Awareness Month. Throughout the month, inclusive employers, such as the University of Regina, are celebrating their workers and raising awareness of the importance of providing meaningful paid employment for former students like Morin and MacDonald who experience intellectual disabilities.

“We are very fortunate to have Dylan and Jarred on our team,” says John Papandreos, Manager of Custodial Services, who has been instrumental in advocating for inclusive employment opportunities at the University. “They are outstanding workers who are contributing purposeful and essential work, especially during COVID when we have such a large need for a clean environment.”

Since the pandemic began, Morin and MacDonald have been working hard on the Custodial Services’ team to disinfect touchpoints around main entrances and exits on campus.

“Right now, I go to all the areas on campus and I’m wiping down touch points, like elevator buttons,” explains Morin, who seeks to make positive connections with people as he carries out his job tasks. “I’m just trying to do my best to keep the University safe.”

Students, staff, and faculty around campus know Morin and appreciate his outgoing, friendly personality, which provides him with a sense of satisfaction in his work and of belonging to the University community.

“I hear ‘thank you!’ from people,” says Morin. “From time to time, I get people asking where a building is and I’ll describe it the best I can. From being a student to being a staff member, I know the University well.”

Both Morin and MacDonald are graduates of the University of Regina and were supported by the Campus for All (CFA) inclusive, post-secondary education initiative, which provides adults who experience an intellectual disability with the opportunity for an authentic university experience. This initiative includes three pillars: academic, social networking, and employment.

“The students we support are no different than any others,” says Faith Savarese, Coordinator of the Campus for All initiative. “At the end of their education, they want to be employed and contribute to the community, so we created an employment project called 4to40 with our community partner Creative Options Regina. The staff at 4to40 identify potential employers and provide on-the-job support like job coaches, so that our new employees can more easily learn their job tasks and integrate into the workplace.”

Since the creation of 4to40, many current and former students supported by CFA are now employed, and more employers are realizing the benefits that hiring inclusively brings to their workplaces.

“Their work ethic is top notch,” says Papandreos. “Dylan and Jarred contribute to a positive work culture. It’s hard not to embrace these guys. There’s huge benefits to the U of R in terms of supporting an inclusive employment philosophy, which receives strong support from U of R senior administration. For the individuals, it gives them a sense of purpose and contribution to the greater good. It works wonders for their self-esteem and so they produce high quality work. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Recently, the University has extended the term positions of both Morin and MacDonald for another year, and Papandreos hopes to one day make their positions permanent.

Like any other workers, Morin and MacDonald look for stability, inclusion, and a sense of satisfaction in their jobs.

MacDonald cleans door and stair handles, as well as benches, and enjoys joking with his supervisor. “My favourite part of working at the University is my cart,” says Jarred, whose strong work ethic keeps him constantly on the go. “And getting a pay cheque.”

Murray Peterson, MacDonald’s job coach for the past year and a half – and close friend – is amazed by MacDonald’s commitment to doing the best job he can.

“He’ll never take a full lunch hour,” says Peterson. “Maybe 15 or 20 minutes and then we’re going back to work. Go, go, go.”

As a result of being University employees, MacDonald and Morin get the same benefits as other University employees.

“Sick time, vacation time, a pension – this is not something Jarred normally would have expected from any job, so the fact that he has that at the U of R is indispensable really,” says Peterson. “The quality of life here amazes me. I’m so impressed with everything the University has done for him and with him.”

Helping an individual to develop their strengths is an important part of empowering new employees.

“Dylan’s job coach used to be here five days a week and is now down to two days a week,” says Donna Flaman-Johnson, an inclusive employment broker for the 4to40 organization. “We want to see graduates of Campus for All gain confidence in their skills, abilities, and job tasks. Then, they can work more independently and may one day mentor others.”

 

By University Advancement and CommunicationsPosted: October 20, 2020

View article: https://www.uregina.ca/external/communications/feature-stories/current/2020/10-20.html

 

Proceeds from 2019 India Night donated to 4to40

 

Read the story on the UofR website: https://www.uregina.ca/external/communications/feature-stories/current/2019/11-07.html

 

 

A Dream Come True

Inclusive employment opportunities are ideal for everyone. There are emerging prospective employees who get the opportunity to work as equals alongside amazing employers within our progressive city. However, we are not always as aware of the unsung heroes working tirelessly in the background. The journey these champions embark on can sometimes be long and filled with twists, turns, struggles and triumphs. They don’t wear capes, but they relentlessly work towards what is best for the people closest to them. These champions are the families!

The following is a testimonial from Jarred’s family sharing their perspective on his journey.

                                               A DREAM COME TRUE

“As a family, we have always wished for Jarred to have the opportunity to be employed earning a decent wage. As parents, we pursued inclusive work placements for Jarred, but we were never successful in accessing employment for him. Jarred also wanted to live in his own home. It was a very happy day in March of 2015 when he was able to move into his own condo with a roommate that was supported by Creative Options Regina. Jarred wanted everything that his sister was experiencing.

Jarred completed high school at Dr. Martin LeBoldus High School in 2002, where he had various work experience opportunities through his high school and the Saskatchewan Abilities Council. He was employed at the Cosmopolitan Learning Centre Satellite Program for almost fifteen years and received a small paycheque each month. Through this opportuity, he became skilled in doing various cleaning jobs at businesses in the community, mostly when they were closed. While working at the Satellite Program, he also attended Campus For All at the University of Regina. Jarred really enjoyed attending his University classes and convocated in 2012. It was the highlight of his workweek when he could attend classes as he flourished in the inclusive university community.

Jarred was aware that some of his workmates from the Satellite Program were getting new employment. He would often come home from work and tell us he wanted a new job — his Supervisor would phone me and ask if Jarred was getting new employment because he would tell her he was getting a new job. Many times he would ask to have a day off. We knew Jarred needed a change! Creative Options Regina was also aware that Jarred wanted a change. With our connection to Creative Options Regina and the Campus for All program, we were put in touch with Donna Flaman-Johnson from the 4to40 initiative. Donna found an employment opportunity for Jarred with Ranch Ehrlo Early Learning Centres. The position was to do cleaning in five elementary classrooms for three hours each day and he would stay at one school all week and then rotate to the other schools each week. He would be paid minimum wage, which seemed like a perfect fit. Jarred had to update his resume and go through an interview process (which he was nervous about), and as were we. We did some practice interviews to get him ready. He did very well, and we were so proud of him. Our DREAM CAME TRUE on May 6, 2019, when Jarred started his new job. He completed his three month probation in August, and he is now a very happy young man in his new work environment.

A sincere thank you to Jarred’s family, as well as many others that put their trust in us and their children to live a life they want to live. Without the support of families, the growing inclusiveness in our communities wouldn’t be where it is today.

Ben & Sawyer

 

Defining Your Role, with Jamie Carter

Two years ago, we connected with Jamie Carter to talk about her ambitions, dreams, and employment with Regina business, iQ Metrix. This week, we were able to reconnect with Jamie. 

Jamie has continued her employment at iQ Metrix for almost three years (since January of 2017) and has developed an exciting rapport with her colleagues and bosses. Her fantastic work ethic and a gift of gab has opened up a universe of opportunities and led her to the University of Regina, where she began her journey in education. In her own words,

“There is no time like the present to get what you want!”

Now years later, following our initial encounter with Jamie, we revisited the discussion about her employment. To jog our memory, we asked her a little bit about the work that iQ Metrix does and she described her current role with the company.

IQ Metrix is a software programming company. They are different. Everyone there seems to be having so much fun, and they enjoy chatting with me! They’re always busy but seem to be happy! Let me say, though, maybe a little too busy! . . . I’ve gotten more confidence in what I’m doing.”

Full of humour and character, Jamie chuckled at her response. When asked what her favourite part about working was, she replied,

“I like getting my workout with deliveries, and I like joking around with everybody. Thumbs up for iQ Metrix!”

Jamie was excited to add her current role as a University of Regina student to her resume. When we met two years ago, she was adamant about wanting to return to school and pursue more education and today, she can proudly say that she’s been attending classes for three semesters. When asked about the courses she’s taken and currently enrolled in, Jamie explained, 

“Two semesters of Cree and this year, one Indigenous studies class so far. I want to take classes that have to do with First Nations. I’m proud of that.”

Where she once explained school as being scary, Jamie now seems filled with motivation and dedication — describing University as: 

“…Interesting. My professors are interesting. What I am learning is interesting. I want to be a receptionist someday and work my way up, so I need to go to school for that.”

With such a busy daily life filled with meaningful employment and education, one might think that Jamie would also find time to relax. When asked about her schedule, Jamie replied, 

“I’m busy six days a week, man. I don’t have time to relax! But I suppose I like to watch T.V. at home and play with my cat. Just chill- but my [usual] plan for every day is reading. I like to get my brain practice. Not University books always. I just like to wake up my brain after its’ weekend sleep. I need to wake it up and get it back in an education mood. I take it seriously.”

Hanging out in the peripheral of Jamie’s life, we have noticed amazing things about her journey. One quality we appreciate about Jamie is her ability to maintain her unique spark and humorous edge. She loves to laugh and aims to make you smile at every turn. We also appreciate her feeling of accomplishment through the development of her character. Two years ago, Jamie was defining what meaningful employment and education meant to her. Today, reconnecting has illustrated how profoundly she owns her accomplishments. There is a growing hustle in Jamie that inspires us every time we can reunite and celebrate her. This hustle is driven, respectful of its boundaries, and humbling to the untrained eye.

Thank you, Jamie! Thank you, iQ Metrix! Thank you to the University of Regina Campus for All. Today, we acknowledge and celebrate you all for your progressiveness with inclusive employment and building love within our communities.

A Journey Through Inclusive Employment

Lucas Faye, alongside his family and Peco Nagai (Educational Facilitator at Campus For All), are actively defining what inclusive employment means to him, as well as working towards a vision for what it can be for everyone.

Lucas is currently a 4th year student at the University of Regina with assistance from Campus for All — an Inclusive Post-Secondary Education initiative for adults experiencing intellectual disability. Lucas is enrolled in courses that interest him, spreading positivity, love, and a contagious smile to the many people he meets on campus. One thing you might not know about Lucas is that he is also employed as a Teaching Assistant with the Center for Student Accessibility. He is also an employee of Special Olympics Saskatchewan. Students supported by Campus for All attend classes, participate in campus activities, create relationships, prepare for employment, and enjoy the same opportunities as their post-secondary peers. 

As we focus on National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we reached out to Lucas, his family, and Peco to share their perspectives on inclusive employment. Together, our conversation focused on how important inclusion has been for Lucas and the culture of Campus for All. Peco shared her profound connection to her position as an immigrant who experienced many barriers to inclusion in a country she now calls home. She began her journey as a Student Advisor for the English as a Second Language program. More than twenty years later, Peco’s involvement [since 2016] in Campus For All has lead to the opportunity to meet, learn from, and grow beside Lucas. Peco identified her hopes for what people can achieve for themselves. 

“You must expect that people have their own goals for their lives, and that’s the number one focus, rather than putting our own expectations on students because students need to be respected as the people they are. . . I like to see people become proud of themselves and enjoy their lives fully, regardless of disability. They’re entitled to that.”

Peco also highlighted the importance of finding meaning within the work that we do while encouraging us to understand that finding meaning within a job is completely unique to every single person.

“Every job has meaning because it’s important for the team. If a job provides meaning to you, then it is a meaningful job” 

We asked Peco: How can we better promote and encourage inclusive employment?

Peco provided insight on understanding the positive impact that individuality can offer to a workplace and our communities.

“The number one thing is giving people a chance, as well as not to be afraid. These people are not fragile, they are strong, they are adults and they are our equals that come to work. Don’t be overly protective. Work together from your heart, because sometimes we close our kindness and simply saying ‘that’s okay, you don’t have to do this’ is not being kind. Have the mindset that you CAN do it, think about how you can do it. . .Or better yet, let’s think together.”

Both Lucas and Peco reflected on the meaningful work within his role. Shredding important confidential documents, folding T-shirts for the Student Success Centre, and maintaining the integrity of the computers in the office are among some of the key duties he fulfills. Peco also shared an important story regarding Lucas’ character advancement and how it has impacted her as a person.

“We planned a big celebration – a big event welcoming about sixty people and Lucas planned everything from menus, to budget, invitations, the master of ceremonies, the clean-up and setup and everything involved. I was amazed at how much Lucas could do. . . I realized that we need to have higher expectations of these students. I explained, he learned, and he did it. So I had to learn to trust him. . . Lucas surprised so many people. We invited office workers, managers, directors — all were just surprised. This made the Centre of Student Accessibility realize they wanted Lucas as a casual employee – so thank you, Lucas.”

While Peco discussed how much professional development has occurred within Lucas, she also realized that as an employer, trusting in his abilities supported his natural growth. Peco identified how her trust evolved into counting on Lucas in his role.

“Strength will build up more and more, so please don’t count on the first appearance of people. It’s about the opportunity we provide for people. . . Being part of a team, we realize how much we rely on the good work that Lucas provides to the team and the only thing we expect is him being himself. . . four years ago when Lucas came, he was my first student. I never would have thought that Lucas would be here right now.”

A strong support system plays an important role in the success of any student or employee. Lucas’ family worked together with Peco in order to support the successes and failures that Lucas has experienced along the way. As an inclusive employer, a connection with families is a key factor for the development and success of the employee.

“Lucas’ parents trusted me, they did not see me as a person that pushed too much by bringing him to that overworked zone. They also supported me and we communicated very closely about the work we wanted him to do, the challenges and stresses in order to work towards a better outcome next time. . . Family support is very big.”

Lucas added to the conversation by sharing his own perception of the role he fulfils at Campus for All. He identified his achievements in event organization and utilization of computer programs, which landed among his most meaningful duties.

“I make student lists for people’s classes like time, location, e-mail addresses. . . data entry into Excel, Powerpoint and Word”

Given Lucas’ exuberant character, we were interested in asking him a few questions about what makes him so awesome. We asked Lucas what he loves to do in his spare time.

“Music, listening on my iPod: Abba, Barenaked Ladies, all kinds of stuff. If I had a million dollars is my favourite!”

And once asked how much he would share with us if he had a million dollars, Lucas jokingly responded “I’d give a thousand to each of you guys.” We also asked Lucas what his dream job is. If he could be anything in the world, what would he be?

“I’d like to be a bus driver, the city bus. . .I usually take the bus. . .I’ve helped Robbie, Taylor and Amelia too. I can do that, I can show people how to ride the bus”

When posed with the question of how he likes to spend his hard earned money, Lucas stated:

“I usually save it, I’m not much of a spender. I save up for games and eventually would save up to go to Los Angeles to go on Disney rides.”

We also asked Lucas if he would recommend that people become part of Campus for All. 

“I recommend people work for Campus for All. I enjoy working here.”

Allen, Lucas’ father, shared the family’s insight on how opportunity has opened up for his son. The inclusiveness they have experienced together has largely shaped the man Lucas is.

“Now he has even gained employment right in the University to help him get further trained for his employment and life ahead. This is all so important. He has just started this job, but I know that they will be so inclusive and open to him. So, as you can see, Lucas has been very fortunate to have had great opportunities over the past.”

Allen expressed the family’s deep gratitude for the roles that so many have had in Lucas’ life over the years. He also shared his perception of Campus for All and the message it sends for a more inclusive society.

“Not only does it give a chance for a much better life for students with better job opportunities, self-sufficiency and a more blossoming interest in life and education. It also helps regular students learn to accept, understand and integrate those with an intellectual disability in their own lives. I hope and pray that this program can always continue and expand so much further and help so many more people.”

Lucas, thank you for being YOU. You are defining what employment truly means for you. You actively show us what opportunity, trust and empowerment can offer for inclusiveness within our communities. Way to go, Lucas!

 

India Night 2019 in Pictures

4to40 Transit Travel Training featured on Global News Regina

Regina program helps those with disabilities transition from Paratransit to city buses

Transit Travel Training

For people with disabilities, getting around the city can be daunting. But a unique program launched last year is making a difference in helping those individuals gain freedom and independence.

The Travel Training Program started as a pilot project in 2018 and is a partnership between the city, the University of Regina and Creative Options Regina.

Independence is one of the greatest things that’s come from this program,” said Ben Morris, creative director with Creative Options Regina. “It’s helped people get out there easily and as much as they want to.

“The first person who went through with us in its trial year was actually able to find gainful employment, based on the fact that they had learned to use conventional transit.”

“You had to book [Paratransit] in advance, and sometimes, if you wanted a trip the day of, you weren’t guaranteed a trip,” Pagan said.

But that all changed last year, when the pair made the jump to city transit after graduating from the program.

“We’ve been able to get around the whole city, basically,” Paige said. “Some places that we’ve never been before; other places we are going constantly because it’s our favourite hangout place. It’s just a sense of freedom where we don’t have to rely on Paratransit all the time.”

When it comes to making the switch, it comes down to fear for many. But thanks to transit travel trainers like Dylan Morin, who also went through the program, that fear quickly goes away.

“I’ve seen growth in a lot of people and hopefully it gets the demand off of Paratransit and more on regular transit,” Morin said. “It gives you the freedom and the chance to go wherever you want, whenever you want with hands-on training.”

So far, Morris is calling the program a success, saying the demand is increasing with two people currently on the waiting list.

“We’ve had quite a few asks to come out and speak to different organizations around the city, and every time we are there, we are getting questions about accessing the program,” Morris said.

For Pagan and Paige, the program means new opportunities and a new sense of confidence.

“You can’t live in fear,” Pagan said. “How do you know if you don’t try? I’ve learned that since I moved out, I always try new things and this is one of the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

View the article on the Global News Regina website.

 

4to40 Selected as Recipient of India Night 2019

Campus For All

After graduation from high school, students with intellectual disabilities have very few opportunities to further their education.  As a result, these young adults often find themselves ill-equipped for the workplace and lacking the skills that might otherwise provide important opportunities in life – such as employment.    The reality is that 80% of people who have an intellectual disability are jobless and heavily reliant on government support services.

The good news is that together we can turn this number around!  University is a viable and beneficial means to improve employment outcomes, job quality and income for individuals with intellectual disabilities.  In fact, graduates of inclusive post-secondary initiatives have an employment rate of nearly 80% — but they need support to get there.  Without support to find and maintain employment, the lives of inclusive post-secondary alumni are – upon completion of their studies — in danger of stagnation personally, educationally and workwise.  They are very much at risk of ending up segregated in our community.

As it foundational mandate, Campus For All: Inclusive Post-Secondary Education encompasses three pillars:  academics, social networking and employment. To address the employment pillar, Campus For All partnered with Creative Options Regina to create an employment project entitled 4to40.

 

4to40 Project

4to40 delivers employment services to students and individuals who experience both an intellectual disability and related barriers to entering the workforce.  These individuals want to work and contribute to our community.  4to40 receives no government funding and relies heavily on donations and fundraising.

4to40 is a unique grassroots project connecting people experiencing disability with employers who embrace a flexible 4 to 40 hour work week.  The overall purpose of 4to40 is to achieve social and economic inclusion.  4to40 works with one person at a time by developing customized employment opportunities that enable individuals experiencing disability and other related barriers to make a contribution to the community.    Behind every job created there is a story like this one written by a mother about her daughter, an alum of the University of Regina who was supported by Campus For All:

 

On Nicole’s full resume from Grade 10, she has 5 years of employability training,
2-1/2 years of volunteering and 15 job experience placements.  Nicole has been doing something every year since grade 10 to somehow get a job – except November
2010 to September 2011 when after doing another employability training program
with big promises and no follow through, I hit a wall and gave up.  She enrolled in Campus For All and the partnership with COR in 4to40 led to a job offer from Farm Credit Canada (her first long-term paying job at the age of 29).  So, needless to say,
to everyone involved (it takes a village).  How could I ever express how thankful
I am other than  . .  . THANK YOU VERY MUCH (with tears of joy).

 

Not only does 4to40 make a difference in individual lives, it generates macro level impacts for the betterment of our community.   4to40 is changing the culture around employment.  For example, many organizations in Regina are developing and implementing diversity strategies, but they don’t know where to start, how to implement, or find a pool of available employees.

4to40 provides information and support to employers – essentially creating inclusion within diversity. When individuals experiencing intellectual disabilities are hired typical understandings of disability are disrupted and new possibilities for belonging and contributing are uncovered.

We invite you to join us on September 14, 2019 at India Night:

AMI tv feature: Accessible Transit Training in Regina

Meet Mitchell Anderson.

Have you ever worked on a project that you’re so proud of you want to share it with everyone? Mitchell has! In fact, ever since the travel training program began he has been thinking about and working on ways to help lift it to new heights. In his own words Mitchell stated, “This program is for everyone. We could all use it. It’s great for the environment and it helps people believe in themselves and their abilities.”

Mitchell’s involvement in this collaborative initiative (Campus for All, COR and City of Regina) as a travel trainer has been inspiring people of all ages and abilities to strive for greater independence. When asked what he has enjoyed most about the program he stated that, “after doing it for the past few months, it’s been great to learn from people and hear about other people’s lives and experiences with using the bus. It’s also been pretty neat learning about how to adapt my language to help others understand and learn about how the bus helps people in wheelchairs. It would be great to learn about how the graduates are doing; what they liked and what they struggle with.”

AMI tv feature: Accessible Transit Training in Regina

Being well spoken and accommodating is only one of the many talents this trainer possesses. He manages to hold down a second job with the Conexus Arts Centre in the evenings and is an active idea-man. He enjoys science music and one day would like to write his own book. Eventually his goal is to become a teacher’s assistant. He is always on the lookout for new ways to promote the travel training program to new audiences and is never happy with ‘just because.’

Some of the feedback Mitchell has been getting from the project after the first nine months into its pilot year has been very positive. He said that, “some of the people have been telling me that they like the fact that they can go out and do it on their own. This was inspiring to hear.” He went on to explain, “If people only knew how easy it was to get around, public transit would be used by everyone.”

Looking back on the last nine months it’s hard to imagine this program being as successful without the hard work of Mitchell. He is extremely humble when it comes to his strengths but when asked to elaborate on what his future holds he said, “Well something that people don’t know about me is that I like to travel. I like to talk about my trip to Vienna, Austria and Paris, France. Someday I’d like to go back; maybe even with my girlfriend!

Thank you Mitchell for teaching Regina’s finest about the program. It takes strong advocates like you to truly bring these things to life!

 

Watch Mitchell on AMI tv: Accessible Transit Training in Regina

For more information, visit: www.4to40.ca

 

Ben Morris,

Director of Storytelling

 

COR featured on AMI: Our Community

In August 2018, COR was featured in a documentary that aired to a national audience highlighting our approach to services. A special thank you to the AMI team and Halter Media for capturing our story so beautifully! We are very appreciative.

To learn more: https://www.ami.ca/category/our-community/media/creative-options-regina

People experiencing disability often don’t have the same options afforded to them as everyone else. Through personalized support services and the Gentle Teaching philosophy, Creative Options Regina aims to change that.