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Campus For All graduate excited for Convocation

19 October 2023
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Vanessa Gebert has always been determined, but during her time in the U of R’s inclusive education program – Campus for All – she really discovered a world of opportunities she had never imagined.

"What I enjoyed the most was the classes I took," Gebert says. "I learned a lot about health and the body in my Kinesiology class. I also took a theatre class, and that helped me get out of my shell by learning how to act in front of a bunch of people."

Campus for All

Launched in 2009, Campus for All provides students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with an opportunity they are rarely afforded – a chance to attend university, pursue higher education, and experience campus life. Gebert's journey wasn't just about academic growth, it was a voyage of self-discovery and newfound confidence.

“The Campus For All program has totally helped me grow,” Gebhert says. “It has made me a better person and I have learned new things. I had great supporters through the whole program and I am so thankful that I was a part of it.”

I think Convocation is going to be wonderful and amazing!  — Vanessa Gebert, Campus For All graduate.

Gebert's gratitude for the program extends to her mentor, Peco Nagai, the educational facilitator for Campus For All, who played a pivotal role in Gebert’s journey.

"Peco helped me a lot,” she says. “She was the best supporter I had and I can't thank her enough. She was always there for me and if I got stressed out she guided me and told me not to give up. She was there any time I made a mistake or to help me with assignments. She was just great and always made me feel comfortable and challenged me to do classes that I never thought I could do."

Woman holding a vase of flowers
Peco Nagai has served as the educational facilitator for Campus For All since 2016. Photo credit: Peco Nagal.

The admiration extends both ways. Nagai very much enjoyed her time with Gebert and says that the motivation and responsibility she brought to her studies set her up for success and earned her the Dr. Don and Renu Kapoor Celebration Award which is awarded to a graduating U of R undergraduate student with a disability for their perseverance.

“I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Vanessa for four years,” Nagai says. “She trusted my abilities and motivated me to become a better educator and individual. Vanessa's unwavering enthusiasm and eagerness to improve made me realize there are no boundaries or hindrances to growth and development.” 

woman using a sewing machine
One of her Gebert’s favourite classes was a costume design course where she got the opportunity to make a dress. Photo credit: Vanessa Gebert.

Nagai, who has served in her role since 2016 says that experiencing first hand the growth of her students is the best part of her job.

“I find it fulfilling to witness the students' progress as they venture out of their comfort zones, make wise decisions, and develop the confidence to lead their lives,” she says. “It's like watching them through a kaleidoscope as they transform and evolve minute-by-minute during the semester. In addition to her academic pursuits, Gebert's life has blossomed in other ways. She recently started working three days a week for the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board.

"The best thing about my job is I'm learning lots of computer skills,” Gebert says. "I get the most satisfaction from working with my peers and just being in a friendly, amazing environment."

Representing Canada

In her free time, Gebert has another passion that had become an integral part of her life – athletics. In June 2023, she had the opportunity to represent Canada at the Special Olympics in Berlin in long jump and the 400 metres

Three teammates wearing medals

Vanessa Gebert competed for Canada at the 2023 Special Olympics in Berlin. Photo Credit: Vanessa Gebert

"I learned about Special Olympics from a friend," she says. "I ended up joining, and I've been a part of it for four years. I heard they were looking for someone from Saskatchewan to go to Berlin and they ended up picking me. It was just an awesome experience."

With dreams of independence and a bright future ahead, Gebert's journey is a testament to the transformative power of education, inclusivity, and determination. That journey culminates tomorrow when Gebert steps on the Convocation stage.

Learn more about Campus for All.

"I think Convocation is going to be wonderful and amazing,” says Gebert. “I'm so looking forward to the opportunity for just being a part of it. I'll have friends and family there so it will be awesome."

Gebert’s plans for the future include getting a place of her own, getting a driver’s license, and living an independent life.

Banner photo credit: U of R Photography

About the University of Regina

Set in the heart of the Canadian prairies we are a comprehensive, mid-sized university where the opportunities are as limitless as the horizon. Our campuses are on Treaty 4 and 6 - the territories of the nêhiyawak, Anihšināpēk, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakoda peoples, and the homeland of the Michif/Métis nation. It is our responsibility to strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities to build a more inclusive future for all. Our three federated colleges, 10 faculties, 25 academic departments, and 18 research centres foster innovative research with practical and theoretical applications. We are committed to cultivating the potential of our 16,000 students and supporting their health and well-being. We take learning beyond the classroom through work and volunteer experiences to develop career-ready graduates.

Let’s go far, together.