October 22, 2020

BY DEEANNA ROLLINS

Individuals with exceptionalities, a term used to describe a multitude of needs within a group of students, can experience college life and enhance their educational skills at Conestoga with the new community integration through co-operative education (CICE) program.

This two-year certificate program was introduced to Conestoga in January 2015.

“There has been such a need for a program like this in the community,” said Shannon Lipskie, manager of apprenticeship and special programs.
“Our program is inclusive. We take people with all different learning needs,” she said.

Zack Marsh, a CICE graduate said, “It was awesome to have the same opportunities that normal students would have had.”

People who apply to the program have to undergo a face-to-face group interview and an individual questionnaire before acceptance. These things help determine if the applicant meets the admission criteria. “We don’t indicate (acceptances) based solely on what their academic skill level is; it’s their overall need for modifications,” said Lipskie.

The applicant must have a level of independence that does not require constant supervision, ability to manage their own transportation and the need for a modified program.
The students who are accepted into CICE take core classes as well as area specialization classes. These core classes include things like independent living, professional and communication skills, health and wellness, community focus and supports, and connections and integration into the community.

“We already have way more applicants than we do spots,” Lipskie said, adding this is a good thing.

This coming September will be the fourth intake of students, and will increase from 12 students to 16.

This fall students in CICE will also have the opportunity to apply to live in residence, like any other student.

“The program changed me and changed my life,” said Marsh. “It made me a better person than I was when I started. If I had an opportunity to do it all over again, I would.”

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