Making the transition from high school to post-secondary studies or a full-time job can be overwhelming. It’s even more daunting for young adults living with learning difficulties (ADHD, dyslexia or autism spectrum disorder) and/or mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
“It can be difficult sometimes to have a learning disability, and a challenge for any student to adjust to university,” says Kathryn Moscrip, an instructor at Capilano University’s innovative Education and Employment Access certificate program. “One of the benefits of this program is the friendships that students develop. It’s rewarding to see them connect with each other.”
Started in 2015, the eight-month, full-time transition program is designed to help young adults aged 18+ who are no longer in high school overcome their personal challenges and achieve their goals. Each year, the 14 students in a cohort learn communication and employability skills, as well as student-success strategies. They receive individual support through instructors and peer mentors, and earn practical experience through a six-week work placement in the field of their interest.
The WE Schools service-learning program has been part of the curriculum from the beginning. Students commit to working together to tackle one local social issue, such as homelessness, and one global issue, such as poverty. Their efforts earn them free tickets to WE Day Vancouver, where they join almost 20,000 young adults who share their commitment to making the world a better place.
Along with her fellow instructor in the program, Alison Hale, Moscrip uses the WE Schools program to help her students develop a community connection and further their social-emotional learning.
“We’re focused on the whole student,” Moscrip says. “Academics and employment, yes, but also being a productive member of a community.” Many of her students haven’t had the opportunity in high school to get involved in service clubs. “We want every young person to ‘step out of themselves’ and realize that they’re part of a global community,” she adds.
With the help of a WE Schools Program Manager, the students work together as a group to identify the local and global issues that are important to them and then develop an action plan that they carry out over each term.
For their global action each spring, students have raised money in support of WE Charity’s international development projects through WE Bake for Change, a WE service-learning initiative made possible by Robin Hood. In 2016, one student with family from India researched and presented a pitch to her peers, successfully rallying them to support WE Charity’s health care programs in rural India. In 2017, the students chose to support WE’s clean water projects in Haiti. They held a bake sale in their campus cafeteria over lunch hour every Monday for four weeks and raised $525, more than double their goal.
Through the WE Bake for Change bake sales, students have developed skills such as baking, creative copywriting and design, marketing, and math and money-handling skills.
“There are other benefits,” says Moscrip. “Including teamwork and leadership. I love watching the students work together and sharing experiences.”
Perhaps most rewarding has been seeing the students grow in their personal development and become more integrated into student life.
“Some of our students are much more outgoing and others are total introverts. Some come into the program with anxiety, and others may be on the autism scale and have noise sensitivity.” Everyone takes a shift at the bake sale table, talking to and answering questions from other students. “We give them lots of praise,” Moscrip says. “It’s great to see students using their strategies and taking the risk.”