A program at Confederation College is coming to the end of its second year, and casting an eye to the future.
Community Integration through Cooperative Education (CICE) is a two-year certificate program at Confederation College in Fort Frances that is a little different from your regular college program.
“The CICE program is designed to help anyone with learning, social or intellectual challenges,” said Jenni Morrison, the integration facilitator at the local Confederation College campus.
“It's so much more than just getting their education. It's independence, and learning and college life with the support that you kind of need to get through,” she added.
The program sets itself apart from other college programs by being flexible and customizable to a degree, in order to better accommodate students who may need to approach classes in a different way, or with more support than others.
“It's modified directly, vey much individually for each student,” said Morrison.
“The tests, everything, are all different, specific to what each student needs,” she added.
The CICE program takes three students every two years, so it's not available to begin each fall. The first intake for the program in Fort Frances was in the fall of 2017, and the second intake will be in the fall of this year.
Morrison said that part of the requirements for the program is for each prospective student to submit copies of their most current academic and psychological assessments in order to help Morrison determine the level of support they will need.
However, Morrison pointed out that students interested in the CICE program need to have a level of independence that doesn't require constant support. Morrison explained that her role is not to force a student do anything in the program, whether that's finishing their work or even showing up to class.
“I'm not an EA for the college, that's not what my job is,” she said.
“It's further than that. It's modifying [classes] and stepping in. It's more educational based,” Morrison added.
The CICE program has core community integration courses that each student has to take, but it is also flexible by way of the numerous electives that students can enroll in.
“When students come into the CICE we try to figure out what they're most interested in,” Morrison said.
“Obviously if you're not wanting to cook, we wouldn't try to put you in a cooking course,” she added.
For CICE student Shawn Masakeyash, though, a cooking course turned out to be exactly what he was looking for.
“For the first part [of the program], I just came here, did my work, went home,” Masakeyash said.
“I felt really no drive, no passion for anything. It was nice to learn these skills, yes, but it was not something that I really wanted to get into,” he added.
Masakeyash said for a long time, he didn't have an answer for people who asked him about what he wanted to do, or what his next step would be.
“When I went into culinary arts, the hands on experience alone, it actually made me feel great,” he said.
“I learned how to cook better things and I thought 'yeah, this is totally what I want to do.'”
Masakeyash is finishing the two-year program this spring, but said he's planning on continuing his focus on culinary arts.
CICE students also take three separate 98-hour work placements, one in each the second, third and fourth semesters of the program.
“The placements have been wonderful, they're very strong pieces of this program,” said Morrison.
Masakeyash said he did his placements with the Fort Frances Public Library, the Fort Frances High School library, and The Bargain Shop, where he learned various skills including money and time management, organization and how to safely use a box cutter.
“And I also learned how to dress quite nicely, if I may say so myself,” he explained.
Morrison said that the flexibility of the CICE program allows students like Shawn to exercise their independence and improve self-confidence.
“Part of the [pre-program] interview is asking specific questions; where they want to end up, what their future goals are, how we can get them there,” she said.
“[The program] is so individualized for where they're each at, their level of independence . . . it's pretty awesome to see it change through that time and through the program,” added Morrison.
“To see all your hard work pay off, that is more rewarding than anything,” Masakeyash said.
Morrison and Masakeyash both encouraged anyone with questions about the program to contact the college so they can learn more about if it would be a good fit for them.
“They should come in and talk to us and see if this is the right program for them, learn about it, understand the level of support but also the level of commitment that there is,” Morrison said.
“I would not encourage anybody to jump in to any college program, for that matter. It's a big choice, a very big choice.”
Masakeyash agreed, but also said that the program could be an alternative for someone who might never have thought of attending college.
“There's a lot of people who don't know where they're going in life,” he said.
“They just need some support, some independence.”