Amina is a member of the Youth Advisory Committee at the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth’s “I Have Something to Say” initiative and will spend her summer as a volunteer mentor to other youth with disabilities. We asked Amina about her first year at post-secondary school.
1. What did being awarded the OACRS scholarship mean to you?
Having the money from the OACRS scholarship put me at ease and allowed me to have less financial stress as I entered a new experience. I was able to pay for scribes to help me in class and buy books since the OACRS scholarship money was available at the beginning of the school year (unlike the College’s bursaries for students which aren’t available until later on).
2. What has been your favourite part of first year? Most challenging?
The first year of college was fantastic but it is overwhelming too. I loved that in my social services work classes, I was able to give first-person insight into the community agencies, like CTN, that support kids and youth with disabilities. My classmates and teachers really valued the experience that I could bring to these discussions. I was happy to talk about my positive experience with CTN and how CTN, the York Catholic District School Board and other agencies in the community all worked together to help kids be successful!
One of the biggest challenges was knowing where to go for resources and knowing how to get the help you need. I’m so glad that my CTN and school teams helped me practice self-advocacy skills in high school. Communication can also be challenging for me, so I had a hard time communicating with some of my teachers in my first semester. In my second semester, I decided to email them to share some information about my disability and what accommodations would help me be successful in their class. The teachers were appreciative that I took the time to show that I was honest, open and willing to work alongside them.
I have cerebral palsy (CP), so I need some physical supports at school. I was really thankful to connect with the March of Dimes Attendant Care Program. This program helped me with personal care while I was on campus.
3. What advice would you give to other youth with disabilities who plan to attend post-secondary school?
I would advise all grade 11 or 12 students with disabilities to work with their teams to build self-advocacy skills and independence. Practicing both can help build the confidence that you need in college or university. It’s great to build these skills while you still have a lot of support in high school, so that when you have to navigate on your own, you have had some experience in “taking the reins” alone before this huge transition to post-secondary. I worked a lot with my CTN team at school and with my OT, who helped prepare me for the challenges at college. I knew my own abilities and skills before graduating, so I could speak up, direct my goals and make better decisions later in my life.
4. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? Next 10 years?
I’d like to take my diploma in Social Services Work and apply it to a Social Work degree at York University. I want to find ways to give back to organizations like CTN, who helped me so much over the years. I want to make a difference to other youth who have disabilities.
Thank you Amina for sharing your story with our families! Good luck on year two!
Featured in photo: Amina and two members of her support team, Kim Cross and Nancy-Jean Rummenie.
For more on post-secondary bursaries, scholarships, tips and support programs, click here.