Be the change: enjoy a ‘night in’ and grow Pathways College

We knew there was a need for a college where students with a disability or autism could learn to live independently.

The vision of STEPS Pathways College came out of the genuine need of parents to be able to offer their young adult children a future of purpose and dignity. Yes, there were other great day programs and community support groups out there, but there wasn’t a program that would radically change the trajectory of their children’s lives that would allow them the choice of how they lived their lives

The concept was to create a live-in College where students would get real-life training and experience living independently, with the right amount of training and support built in so they could succeed. What was needed was infrastructure – classrooms and living apartments where the students could live. What was also needed were the finances to make that happen.

“We started STEPS Charity six years ago, with the idea that we would raise the money to build a college”, says Carmel Crouch, Managing Director of STEPS.

“What happened was we encountered an outrageously generous community; a group of committed and caring people who rallied, fundraised, donated, and believed in the rights of young people with a disability or autism to live a life of their choosing.

“The efforts of the community built the college for us, probably five years sooner than we expected!”

Pathways College is a modern campus that accommodates students in shared two-bedroom apartments, with extensive outdoor and recreational zones. Students leave home to come to the college and suddenly the first thing they need to learn is how to buy the food for their menus and to make their meals. They learn to study, to clean, wash, exercise, budget, make healthy choices and contribute to the social group of students they live with daily. The students have well-trained staff to support them in their daily learnings and some dedicated volunteers who walk alongside students and offer a hand up when needed.

The program is successful. The graduation of the first cohort of students was a huge milestone in 2019 and every student that graduated, has moved on to living independently.

We are continually inundated with parent’s wanting to enrol their adult children, wanting to give them a great big chance at an independent life. We must grow to meet this need and to give these young people and their parents the opportunities they deserve to all live independently. We have a new expansion planned which is set to be completed by November this year.

In practical terms that means more lives changed for both students and parents. The changes to the lives of parents is revolutionary.

Anne Nioa remembers dropping off her daughter Ariana to learn the skills of independent living and describes their journey as an ‘entirely gratifying experience for the entire family’.

“As a widowed mum of a daughter with Down Syndrome, the relief of having Ariana learn the skills to live independently and gain the confidence to make her own decisions has been life changing for me,” Anne said.

“It is also a relief for me on behalf of my son, who now would not need to fill my shoes should something happen to me – even though he would in an instant – our extended family also share the joy of Ari’s independence.”

Ariana was part of the first cohort to graduate last year and is now living independently and working at the Caloundra RSL in the accounts department.

“Ari’s achievements since starting at the college may be too numerous to mention, but her ability to now travel intercity by public transport – taxi, bus, train by herself is amazing to me,” Anne said.

“She shows no hesitation as she is completely confident in her ability – and if she cannot find something – she immediately asks someone of responsibility to help her out.

“The college has given us an opportunity as a family to enjoy the future without the worry of ‘what if’, we’re confident that her time at the college has instilled the skills she needs to make solid, sensible decisions about her life.”

Carmel has witnessed the profound change in parents, “I really love to see the freedom that the parents have because they no longer have to spend the rest of their lives worrying about what will happen to their child when they are gone, because they’re actually going to be ok.”

Be part of the community that grows STEPS Pathways College to its next level of capacity by attending our first-ever STEPS Virtual Grand Winter Ball presented by BA Murphy Constructions. For $150 your household will enjoy a fabulous line-up of entertainment, drinks, trivia, and the heart-warming experience of being part of something so much bigger than all of us.



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