Disability rep at Whitireia and WelTec encourages others to come forward for upcoming student council elections and have their voice heard

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“If it wasn’t for the student support I have had at Whitireia I would not be on this journey to complete my social work degree,” says Sara Mclaughlin, who is in her first year of the four year study programme and is also the disability representative on Student Connection, Whitireia and WelTec’s student representative body.

“Not only have I been supported to discover who I was as an individual, but I have been supported to discover what I wanted to do, and how to get to my end-goal of being an advocate for children in the system via my social work degree. The learning advisors are all incredible.

“Being part of the Student Connection has taken this to the next level. It has helped me understand how to advocate, and that I have a passion for this, being able to give other students like me a voice has been huge.

“I encourage any student who wants to share their vision, or their journey or their hardships in order to help other students, to join Student Connection.

“It is an awesome community of people, and it is a huge privilege to be able to help students who have similar struggles.

Sara has been a student representative for two years and has worked with tutors at Whitireia to help them understand what it is like to be a student with disabilities and incorporate this into their training.

Sara has also been instrumental in setting up new initiatives such as the ‘meet & greet’ for classes to help students less confident feel more comfortable with classmates.

“I also enjoyed working with the collective group of councillors to be able to connect with students and hear their stories. Being a part of this group enhanced my own confidence and leadership skills and my ability to work with strangers and make new connections,” says Sara.

“Student Connection offers a meaningful outlet for ākonga (students) to have their voices heard in the decision-making process of Whitireia and WelTec,” says Andrea Trueman, Head of Learner Pathways and Support at Whitireia and WelTec.

“Over the last 12 months, we have been working hard to create an inclusive and equitable student council model. For 2023, we have a range of student council roles on offer that reflect the diversity of our ākonga community, this includes representatives for Māori, Pacific, Rainbow, Disability, International, and a campus coordinator role. These Student Connection roles are paid positions enabling our ākonga to continue to learn well and contribute their time to the student council without added financial worries.

“It has been such a pleasure helping Sara with her inspiring learner journey,” says Andrea.

“Our Disability and Wellbeing Advisors support ākonga with long or short-term disabilities and learning differences, as well as providing guidance in areas of mental health and physical wellbeing. Our service includes developing Education Support Plans to assist with any academic and support needs as well as providing loan equipment and exam accommodations i.e., reader/writers and private study rooms. We also offer free dyslexia and Irlen’s screening. Our approach is to offer a confidential and empowering wraparound service working together with ākonga and their whānau as well as teaching staff and liaising with internal and external support providers and services. We welcome all ākonga and it is a privilege to be able to help,” says Andrea.

Whitireia and WelTec Student Council elections are open from March 13th and on April 5th the Student Connection Annual General Meeting will take place where there will be an opportunity for all ākonga to attend and vote for their new council members.

More information on Whitireia and WelTec support services and the Student Connection can be found here: https://www.whitireiaweltec.ac.nz/current-students/student-support/

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