University of Lethbridge launches new program to empower students with disabilities

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University of Lethbridge launches new program empowering students with disabilities
The University of Lethbridge is kick starting a five-year program aimed at empowering students with disabilities to find work after school thanks to a generous donation from CIBC. Demi Knight has more – Feb 5, 2020

The University of Lethbridge is launching a new program to help students with disabilities find work after their education.

“It will be truly transformational and so beneficial to these students,” Jasminn Berteotti, director of co-operative education and applied studies at the University of Lethbridge, said.

“We can give them an opportunity to feel success and to have that impactful moment for them. There’s also a self-advocacy piece where students will be able to take what they learn and apply that to life outside of the walls of this university.”

The CIBC Navigator Program donated $250,000 to the university to develop cooperative education placements for students with disabilities, by removing barriers and creating financial opportunities.

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Berteotti said the yearly funds will support the hiring of a program developer and navigator, a hiring subsidy for employers and scholarships for students selected to participate in the program.

“I have seen how co-op experiences empower students by providing them with meaningful and paid career-related opportunities,” she said.

“With CIBC’s support, we intend to continue this legacy and ensure these impactful experiences are also accessible to our students with disabilities.”

Click to play video: 'Halton school-to-work transition program for students with developmental disabilities'
Halton school-to-work transition program for students with developmental disabilities

Some of the money also went towards hiring Eileen Sowumni, a third-year sociology and co-op student who used her first-hand knowledge to help develop the program.

“Knowing a few students who have disabilities, it’s very important that they’re included and are able to find accessible work placements,” Sowumni said.

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“Being a co-op student myself, the benefits of being in the program are immense, so it’s very important that the benefits of the program are accessible to all students.”

Per Humle, senior vice president with CIBC, said partnering with the university for this new program was an easy decision.

“We believe the CIBC Navigator program will have a strong impact on the students’ competitiveness in the labour market and enable them to be full participants in our economy,” he said.

The investment by CIBC is part of the U of L’s SHINE campaign, which works to highlight the corporate community’s involvement in supporting students and promoting labour opportunities.

This is a five-year program, and officials hope to have at least three students enrolled in work placements by this summer.

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