With over 20 years of experience in the education system, Neuman has committed her career to working with students who are at-risk or have development disabilities. She started at Medicine Hat College (MHC) five years ago and represents Inclusion Alberta on campus, a non-profit organization that provides advocacy and support for children and adults living with developmental disabilities across Alberta.
“MHC opens the door to a broad scope of learners,” explains the Inclusive Post-Secondary Education coordinator. “This initiative demonstrates one more way MHC reaches diverse learners who look towards being contributing members of our college community and to the community of Medicine Hat after completion of their studies.”
Four students are enrolled at MHC this year in a variety of programs including criminal justice, general studies, environmental science, and occupational therapy/physical therapy assistant. Faculty and administration have embraced the concept and students feel supported in their studies.
The students audit the courses and Neuman, together with educational facilitator Tanya Keeler, assist the students academically by managing their workload and helping adapt course material to their learning style. Students may have past academic experiences where they have been separated or excluded from typical learning environments so to have them be part of the college culture, instructional inclusion and routine is critical to their experience. At the beginning of each semester, Neuman attends classes to explain her role and the objectives of the Inclusive Post-Secondary Education initiative. This provides students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of inclusive education and ask questions.
At the end of their studies, students receive a Certificate of Completion and walk across the stage at convocation with their peers. Neuman also connects students and graduates with work placements, provides advocacy for families within the community, and supports colleagues from other provincial post-secondary initiatives with aspects of their work.
The social aspect is another part of the college experience and one of the most important things is the students are imbedded in the flow of college life. With the abundant opportunities at MHC such as the Students’ Association, ambassador program, Enactus, and Rattlers Athletics to name a few, fostering involvement and group participation is a way for the students to meet other students and get involved on campus.
“As for all students, the college experience is about building friendships and lasting relationships,” says Neuman. “Setting our own barriers aside because we are unsure if what we say or do may be the wrong thing, we miss an incredible opportunity to meet an amazing individual.”
One of the most pivotal experiences for her is watching the personal growth and confidence of the students over the years.
“Seeing a student attend convocation and cross the stage with their peers is a proud moment for me and a special part of my job. It’s an honour to share in the experience with the student and their family," says Neuman.
"The Inclusive Post-Secondary Education initiative at MHC has provided an opportunity to individuals in our community who, at one time, could only dream of a post-secondary academic experience. For these students, the MHC experience gives purpose, value, and a sense of belonging. Students learn about who they are and how they can actively contribute to community, it’s about creating a good life.”
To learn more about Inclusive Post-Secondary Education at Medicine Hat College, please contact Karen Neuman, Inclusive Post-Secondary Education coordinator.
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