GREATER Shepparton Secondary College (GSSC) welcomed Parliamentary Secretary for Education Darren Cheeseman and Chris Varney, Founder and Chief Enabling Officer of I CAN Network, on Monday to announce $5.75M in further funding for the school program.
The funding boost means I CAN will expand its in-school student mentoring program from 100 schools to 254 by 2027, as well as provide online support and programs to all remaining Victorian government schools.
I CAN support programs include holding presentations for families and broader school communities to help them understand and include autistic students. Their mission is for all autistic students in every Victorian government school to have an I CAN Autistic Mentor available to them.
Locally, GSSC as well as Kyabram P12 College have the program implemented in their curriculum for select students.
“At I CAN, we believe in a rethink of autism that moves young people from a mindset of ‘I CAN’T’ to ‘I CAN.’ We do this through respectful, peer-based programs that celebrate autistic strengths, passions, and shared experiences,” said Chris.
“Nowhere else in the world has there been this opportunity to help ensure schools are safe for autistic students, who often struggle to fit in at school and feel safe in their autistic identity. The I CAN program has had enormous success in helping autistic students feel safe at school.
“Following the program, autistic students report feeling a keen sense of hope, belonging and improved self-esteem.”
Year 8 student Chloe explained several students meet on Fridays to chill out and do activities as part of the program.
“It really helps us with our learning,” said Chloe.
“I look forward to Fridays and I’m happy to be a part of the program.”