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Mental Health

THEO BC's Supported Education Program and Bursary Fund

Megan Graham

Reprinted from "Supported Education" issue of Visions Journal, 2003, No. 17, p. 29

Since 1997, THEO BC has been supporting adults with mental health issues to return to school. Using a ChooseGet-Keep model of support, the individual will work with their counsellor to choose an educational program, access funding, enroll in a program and maintain that enrollment. At each stage, this process is one to one. It is individualized to meet the needs of the student and to support their choices, their vocational goals and ideas.

In the Choose phase of the Supported Education Program, a student will sit down with their counsellor to solidify their educational plans — a process that involves career assessment. As most adults with mental health issues report some degree of anxiety around returning to school, the student will explore where they feel they will need support. This could include a functional assessment to address issues like memory loss and concentration issues due to medications; environmental concerns like noisy, large classes; and how to study. The student’s learning styles are assessed and their coping styles are discussed with the idea of school accommodations. Will they need additional support to do tests and papers? Should they disclose? Can they get to class on time? These are just some of the concerns that will be discussed.

Once the educational goal is decided, the process moves to the Get phase. This is the phase where the student receives support to look for funding and to make applications to school. Some students feel quite confident to enroll by themselves in the school of their choice. Others feel they need assistance to get their educational transcripts ordered and to fill out the applications. At this time, the student’s funding options are considered: student loans and grants, bursaries, bank loans, and lines of credit are all discussed.

Once funding is secured and the student has been accepted into the program of their choice, they move into the Keep phase. At this point, the counsellor and student sit down to discuss the types of support that will be needed in school. Students are encouraged to consider all their options, from weekly meetings with their counsellor to accessing the services at their school. This process could include looking at course schedules and timelines to help keep the student on track.

As THEO BC began to do more work in the area of supported education, it became apparent that there was a need for funding support for individuals to return to school. Since 1999, the Board of Directors of THEO has authorized fundraising to support the THEO BC Bursary Fund. Successful applicants are eligible to receive up to $500 per annum, and a qualified student may apply for a second year. The bursary application has now been incorporated into the supported education process and, to date, over $20,000 has been granted to students.

THEO BC has supported students to go back to school in a variety of educational settings. Our students are expanding their horizons in vocational programs, high school upgrades, college and university programs.

 
About the author
Megan is the Education and Employment Services Coordinator at THEO BC (BC Society of Training for Health and Education Opportunities), a program based in Vancouver and Kamloops. Appreciating life-long learning principles herself, Megan has supported people for more than eight years with their education and employment goals

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