There was a mixture of nervousness and excitement as the first 11 STEPS Pathways College students walked through the doors of the brand new Caloundra facility last month.
Now, they are well on their way to learning the skills they need to live an independent life.
The college is the realisation of a long-held dream for STEPS managing director Carmel Crouch, who says while many people with a disability had the capacity to learn the skills that would see them living independently, there were no educational programs available in which students could learn these life skills in a way that would transform their approach to life – until now.
The students have begun their 12-month course and will live on campus with their own bedroom, bathroom and patio along with a shared living room, kitchen and outdoor entertainment area.
Crouch says they will have a combination of classroom work and hands-on training.
“Things like learning how to budget, weekly meal planning, maintaining a tenancy, learning how to make good decisions and develop good relationships, learning how to cook nutritious meals, access community services, and even cleaning,” she says.
“A lot of the things our students learn are skills that many of us do every day and simply take for granted. We make sure we keep things as practical as possible, learning by experience is a very important part of our students’ success.”
Crouch says this is the first time the students have lived away from home and their parents have expressed gratitude for the opportunity for them to do so.
“There’s really nothing like this around and the thought that their child will soon be living on their own and making decisions and choices about their own life is something parents all want for their kids,” she says.
“The feedback we’ve received has been so positive and
I guess it just reinforces why we’re doing all of this in the first place.”
The college was built in Caloundra in order to be close to the STEPS Australia Group head office and the experienced staff that work there.
Crouch says they plan to expand the college model out to other areas as it is one that “will change the state of living for people with a disability in Australia”.
But for now, they will be pouring all of their energy into the foundation students in order to ensure their experience is everything they hoped it would be.
The college is 100 per cent funded by the STEPS charity and fundraising will continue to ensure more young people with a disability graduate from the college into the future.
“There are lots of ways people can help, such as attending one of our fundraising events, the STEPS Grand Winter Ball in July is our major fundraising event for the College,” Crouch says.
“People can also make a donation, volunteer their time, or speak to us about becoming a corporate sponsor.”
To find out more about the STEPS Pathways College, visit stepspathways.com.au.
The STEPS Grand Winter Ball
When: July 15 from 6pm to 12am.
Where: The Events Centre, Caloundra.
Dress code is long ball gowns and formal black tie.
Tickets: $239 from thestepsgrandwinterball.com.