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Added Thompson: "I believe the Life Skills and Community Access and Mentorship Employment Programs we offer to people with developmental disabilities in Whistler and throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor are essential and must continue to develop."
"People with developmental disabilities are often some of the most marginalized in our communities. When the majority of us graduate from high school we follow what we believe is a natural progression, sometimes including higher education, always resulting in employment. For many people with developmental disabilities this progression isn't so 'natural' or easy to follow. People with developmental disabilities often require additional supports after their school years have ended, supports that may continue to be required throughout their lifetimes. Without appropriate support services such as SSCS's Life Skill and Community Access and Mentorship Employment Program people with developmental disabilities often face the risk of falling through society's cracks."
Walker welcomes the program as well: "We are super excited to have the mentorship program. We offer as much as we can at WASP, but we have a sports based mandate. Having a secondary program like this means that individuals, like Sarah, can reach the goals they set and further their vocational training beyond what we can offer alone.
"For Sarah she has now become a volunteer building host and that's been made possible by both us and the SCSS's new program. We have already identified other young adults who will be leaving high school, and having this program in place will mean their transition will start them on the right path. The mentorship program is integral to providing the support for the growth we want to see for these young adults in our community."
So what's next for the Sport Academy athletes? They will be entered into weekly Kokanee Races and the Rotary GS and SL in April 2012, right here in Whistler, as well as the Special Olympics and cross-country ski events. Alongside the racing they will continue their strength training, nutrition education, spin classes, and new this year — yoga.
Whistler is in its infancy when it comes to dealing with the needs of such a diverse community. Jill and Greg are grateful to the people who have helped them get this far, but it's still a challenge. The Sports Academy Program helps to bring people together — the young adults who are taking part in the courses, and also the families themselves have become a network. Both Walker and Jill talk about "The Gang" and how they have enriched the lives of those around them. This has given them a sense of belonging but it needs to be even more far-reaching as the Whistler community develops. Services and support need to grow in order for the academy and other programs like it to develop to their full potential.