No funding available for special needs mentoring group

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By Avary Lovell

Kateryna Aksenchuk chose to attend Ryerson three years ago because the university had a Best Buddies chapter. But after school started, she realized it wasn’t a recognized campus group.

The five-year-old chapter pairs students and individuals with intellectual disabilities based on similar interests. But it doesn’t have club status because it’s not recognized by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU). Aksenchuk, co-campus co-ordinator of the group, said it has 20 members but it’s difficult to recruit and function as a group without RSU support.

“We have no funding, can’t book a room, can’t put up a poster, all because we don’t have club status,” she said.

Once paired, buddies talk once a week and meet at least twice a month to do anything from coffee to going for a run. There are four group events a year that require meeting space.

“You’ve got to understand, Ryerson students are involved. I don’t understand why York, U of T, McMaster all have this program [acknowledged]… so why shouldn’t we have that status?” said co-campus coordinator, Samiksha Singh.

Best Buddies is not an academically-based group and doesn’t fit the requirements in this category, said Lise de Montbrun, RSU VP student life and events, which is why it can’t get funding. Affiliate groups include chapters of external organizations and are usually academically orispace through RSU.

Aksenchuk felt if other chapters, such as Engineers Without Borders, are included then so should hers.

“I talked to anyone I could. I talked to the president (of RSU). I was told it would be brought up in meetings and I thought I could go to bed at least knowing that was happening. But nothing was done.”

De Montbrun said there have been a handful of groups seeking status, such as Meal Exchange and Free the Children.

A draft policy will be discussed at the next RSU board meeting on Oct. 13. De Montbrun said if the motion gets passed, groups eligible for the new category will be contacted to re-apply for status.

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