Galileo Adult Education Centre’s SVI program continues to expand Nancy Leopard
by Jordan Stoopler
Nancy Leopardi’s day-to-day tasks at the non-profit foundation Friends 4 Cause consist of assembling baskets comprised of speciality Italian products, which are later sold at the Montreal-North boutique. All profits from store purchases are donated to local charities and causes, including the English Montreal School Board’s Galileo Adult Education Centre, where Leopardi is a student.
Leopardi takes great pride in giving back to the community, but also appreciates the recognition shown to her by her employers. “We are like a family over there,” she said. “It may be small, but they are all really nice people. They don’t look at me as if I have a learning disability; they look at me as a person. That makes me happy.”
Leopardi’s job at Friends 4 Cause came about thanks to Galileo’s Sociovocational Integration Services program (SVI). She, along with 60 of her peers all aged 21 years and older, develop work, communication and social skills throughout the hybrid program. Students split their time between onsite internships, work placements and the classroom, where they share their personal experiences at their respective workplaces and continue to refine the skills needed for such positions.
“What they learn in class is put into practice in their internships,” said Michel Massé, work integration teacher of the SVI program at Galileo. “Those 21 years and older have access to less and less services. It’s important to develop skills and ultimately transition to working life. They need to be validated outside of the classroom and most importantly, that they [be] happy.”
Massé first began work on the program in October of 2016, eventually integrating three SVI students in individual internships the following March. The program has since continually expanded year after year, with 12 students currently in individual internships with another three at group internships located across three workplace sites. Massé is confident five of his students can one day achieve paid employment, and this, within the next two to three years.
“The SVI program has completely changed the atmosphere of the school,” he said. “I have students coming up to me asking if they can work another two to three days a week. They are confident in themselves.” Leopardi says she has learned maturity, punctuality, how to act responsibly and appropriately at the workplace, as well as the value of taking initiative on the job. She has even begun helping fellow students integrate and adapt to their new responsibilities at Friends 4 Cause.
“Initially, I was nervous about joining the work program,” she said. “Slowly, I got used to it. Now, I love coming to work. I am helping out the community by doing my part. I feel important.”
Galileo SVI students currently intern at Home Depot, Café Brossard, Canadian Tire, Maxi, Friends 4 Cause, Prostyle, and Promo21. Massé is in search of additional contracts from local companies willing to integrate students into their job sites. Please contact email@example.com if you are interested in having your company participate in the program.