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St. David CES students learn about diversity, inclusion and the importance of accessibility

St. David Catholic Elementary School in Maple recently hosted two ICAN events for students in Grades 3-8, thanks to the Ministry of Education’s SpeakUp grant.

The first was a presentation by John Draper, founder of the Together We Rock leadership initiative. The presentation was about how leadership and learning can create communities that are accessible to, and inclusive of people who have disabilities. Using humour, John candidly drew upon his own experiences to deliver inspirational messaging to Grades 3-8 students about diversity, inclusion and accessibility.

“John touched the hearts of teachers, students and parents who attended the presentation,” says Patricia Mandaliti, Teacher-Librarian, St. David CES. “His struggle spoke volumes to our need to respond to one another with compassion, empathy and determination to be the difference we want to see in the world.”

John’s presentation was sponsored by the Ministry of Education’s SpeakUp grant and was an ICAN (Inclusive Community Ambassador Network) initiative. This network of administrators, teachers, support staff, students and parents are committed to promoting inclusion through recognition and participation in school activities and events. Its mission is to include the meaningful contributions of every child nurtured and validated through friendships so that everyone can flourish in God’s community.

John later met with the school’s intermediate ICAN student leadership ambassador team to work on an action plan for ICAN initiatives at St. David CES.

The following week, Grades 3-8 students and staff participated in a second ICAN presentation, reinforcing the lessons and messaging about inclusion they previous learned. This presentation featured Superfire, an Erinoak alumni band.

ErinoakKids is Ontario`s largest accredited children`s treatment centre offering medical treatment and development services to families with special needs. Members in Superfire have Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Williams Syndrome, Batten`s Disease, Blindness, Acquired Brain Injury and Developmental Delays, but despite their challenges, the youth do not want to be judged as having perceived weaknesses, rather indulging in the opportunity to share their unique talents.

Each band member shared their struggles, accomplishments and showcased their talent for all to appreciate. It was an inspirational presentation that challenged the audience to acknowledge each other’s gifts. The band’s message was clear, ‘Superfire wants, what you want, to be respected, valued and affirmed.’ The presentation helped challenge stereotypical opinions of what challenged individuals can accomplish within the wider community by blurring the lines between disability and ability.