By Lee-Ann Scott, Ottawa Volunteers in Education Program Director for ONFE
Alexa Vanveen is a one-of-a-kind individual who has volunteered since 2012 at Jockvale Public School, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from September to June. Alexa is volunteering to get work experience by assisting in the milk program for the school’s parent council – a job she takes very seriously.
As Alexa has Down syndrome, finding work experience involved connecting with several organizations. Alexa’s mother, Angela, approached Jockvale Public School several years ago, and then connected with Y’s Owl Maclure Co-operative Centre to find a job coach to oversee Alexa’s work placement. The job coach in turn connected with the Ottawa Network for Education to screen Alexa to volunteer at Jockvale. We feel blessed to have met Alexa and can see why she is a bright light at Jockvale Public School!
We met up with Alexa, Angela, and job coach Michele Bos at the Y’s Owl Centre to interview Alexa for National Volunteer Week 2018. Alexa was very nervous at first but when she started to talk about her work, she exclaimed with joy, “I love kids! I really like talking to them. I get the list of all the students who get milk and I fill the bins for each classroom. A student from each class comes and gets the bins. I make sure the fridges are clean and tidy. When the bins come back, I make sure they are cleaned and organized for the next day.” Alexa also helps the parent council with pizza and hot dog day fundraisers.
Alexa also works at Wesley Clover’s Ian Millar School of Horsemanship where she is a stable helper and a groomer, and takes riding lessons. Alexa is well loved at Wesley Clover. When the staff found out that Angel, the horse that Alexa rode regularly at another stable, was for sale, they bought Angel and surprised Alexa by reuniting them at Wesley Clover. “Angel was really excited to see me! We are team A-A (Alexa and Angel).”
Alexa’s Job Coach, Michele, who visits her occasionally at the school, says, “All the teachers and children look forward to Alexa coming to work. The school bought her a cake and balloons on her birthday and they have a picture of her on their staff bulletin board along with all the other staff members’ pictures. She eats lunch with the teachers and is definitely part of the Jockvale team.”
Alexa has a great rapport with everyone including teacher, Steven Aubrey. Mr. Aubrey loves to tease her and vice versa. However, Alexa is quick to add, “Steve and I have a deal. He’s not allowed to tease me on my birthday!”
Mr. Aubrey was honoured and very pleased to talk about Alexa. “Alexa always brings a smile to my face. The hard work and pride she puts into her job here at Jockvale is impressive. She is always willing to take a couple of minutes from her day to chat with me… unless of course she is in the middle of following through with one of her responsibilities, then all I get is ‘I’m busy now, we’ll have to talk later’. We enjoy a relationship filled with teasing sometimes, but respect always. I admire her perseverance and dedication to getting her responsibilities accomplished always to the best of her abilities. Alexa is a great addition to the staff of employees and volunteers we have at Jockvale.”
Alexa has formed many friendships with the students at Jockvale since 2012. When one grade six student was getting ready to graduate and leave the school he said, “I won’t miss this place but I will miss you Alexa!” This student invited Alexa to his graduation ceremony – she attended and brought him a graduation gift.
One day when Alexa lost her hearing aid and was very distressed, a student came to her rescue, and they retraced her steps until they found it. Alexa sympathetically adds, “And I helped the time he had crutches because I had crutches and I know what that’s like!”
After interviewing Alexa, it is easy to see why Alexa is a bright light and special to so many people. Every workplace should have someone like Alexa to brighten their day!
To learn more about Y’s Owl Co-operative Centre visit http://www.ysowlmaclure.org/index.php
To learn more about Wesley Clover’s Ian Millar’s School of Horsemanship visit http://wesleycloverparks.com/ian-millar-school-of-horsemanship/lessons/
Alexa was screened through the Ottawa Network for Education (ONFE) to volunteer in OCDSB schools. The Ottawa Volunteers in Education/OttawaReads Program, more than 1,500 community members are volunteering over 206,784 hours in 152 local schools to support over 58,850 students annually–a donated value of over 4 million dollars!