Beyond 21 is a new initiative focused on connecting young adults living with developmental disabilities to a variety of community services.
The program, in partnership with the Upper Canada Leger Centre of Education and Training (UCLCET), plans to begin mid-January 2012, and is open to adults over the age of 21.
Interim Executive Director Kevin Cooper says the purpose of the program is to help those who are no longer eligible for the school system to continue to use valuable community services in a structured, community-based, and simplified way.
Cooper says Beyond 21 truly is a grass roots program that started at home.
“My wife Cathy was concerned about the lack of opportunities for our niece who had recently completed high school,” he said. “We invited some interested community members and educators to come to our home to discuss the issue. We met once a month and we learned a lot in the first little while.
“Later, in association with UCLCET, we held a town hall meeting where more than 100 people attended,” he added. “We created working groups. Retired principal Garry Atchison and I travelled around the province to see similar grass roots programs. There were programs in Brantford, Markham, Orillia, North Bay and more. We analyzed the commonalities.”
Now, with a board of directors, the Beyond 21 program will be offered out of a space in the former General Vanier Intermediate School (GVIS) building.
“I was part of a group of people who were increasingly concerned about the resource issues pertaining to supporting students graduating from our programs,” Cooper said. “It’s so important for these young adults living with developmental disabilities to maintain that structure, connection and opportunity that they once had in the school system. We want to provide them with something to look forward to every day; somewhere they feel safe.
Cooper emphasizes the fact that Beyond 21 is to be a community hub.“We are very much committed to developing a community-based program,” he said. “In no way do we want Beyond 21 to be a segregated, stand-alone entity.”
Cooper says Beyond 21 has already partnered with local food programs including Healthy Eating for Better Learning, Cornwall Green Food Box, and All Things Food to help participants gain valuable skills and confidence.
“One of our goals is to start producing some of the products for the Healthy Eating for Better Learning breakfast program,” Cooper said. “Plus, we want to assist in getting those products to the schools.
“In addition, we’re going to help with the distribution program for the Cornwall Green Food Box initiative,” he outlined. “These are some very exciting partnerships.”
Cooper says that he looks forward to starting the program, and seeing how it evolves.
“We have a great board with very committed folks,” he said, noting that the first director of Beyond 21 was Tish Humphries of Lancaster. Above all, Cooper is grateful for the guidance and leadership of David K. Thomas, Chair of the UCLC.
Contact 613-933-5595, EXT. 0, 613-932-7170 or Beyond21@uclc.ca for additional information on the program.