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CapU student achieves academic dream

New program described as gentle entry to university

Ana Westcott can now pursue her passion of teaching kids, something that wouldn’t have been possible two years ago because of her learning challenges.

Westcott was part of the first cohort of students in CapU’s Education and Employment Access program, which launched in 2015 and helps those with learning, social, mental health or physical challenges achieve their post-secondary education and employment goals.

Westcott struggled with math and sciences during high school. The 20-year-old Dundarave resident says she often hesitated to ask for help with her studies.

“I would try to figure it out myself – but it wouldn’t work,” says Westcott.

Understandably, Westcott was nervous making the academic jump after high school – until she heard about a new program at CapU described as a gentle entry for students onto a university campus.

The eight-month, full-time Education and Employment Access certificate program starts in September and runs two terms – fall and spring – and includes a six-week work practicum.

Students develop communication, personal management, resume writing and interviewing skills, among others, needed to be successful in university or in employment.

Westcott learned strategies which will set her up for success this September, when she starts the Early Childhood Care and Education program at CapU.

“They have really good teachers that taught the program – they were patient and understanding,” describes Westcott of her Education and Employment Access instructors.

But the most valuable part of the program, for Westcott, was the work experience component.

Westcott, who did her practicum at the West Vancouver Child Development Centre, says that real-world experience of working with her kids helped Westcott visualize her future career.

She went on to take three prerequisite courses for the Early Childhood Care and Education program, sailing through each one with new-found confidence. In one course, she learned how to teach art to kids, while another class, gender and race, gave Westcott instruction on how to help kids become accepting of all their peers.   

Now equipped with the right tools and poised to succeed in her Early Childhood Care and Education program, Westcott can concentrate on her passion: “getting a chance to work with kids.”

Admission to CapU’s Education and Employment Access program is open to young people who have completed high school – with or without a diploma. Students are interviewed one-on-one with an instructor, followed by a short reading and writing assessment.

The impetus for the program was that instructors at CapU were noticing more and more young people falling through the cracks once they reached university, says CapU spokeswoman Cheryl Rossi.

“The idea of heading to university or looking for work can be intimidating, especially for those who live with a learning disability or a physical, social or mental health challenge,” Rossi adds. “Our program is a great pathway into adult upgrading courses, fundamental programs and general studies.”

Some students in the CapU access program could include youth-at-risk who are aging out of government care, others might cope with anxiety, depression, ADHD, dyslexia or autism, for example.

CapU is currently accepting applicants for the upcoming Education and Employment Access program, which has a cohort of 14 students each year. An information session will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Birch Building at CapU.

More information is available at