Jacob, the 18-year-old with the Wings Program at MRSS, has been painting the windows of the Learning Services office at Thomas Haney Secondary School. (Shelli Silvestri/Special to The News)

Jacob, the 18-year-old with the Wings Program at MRSS, has been painting the windows of the Learning Services office at Thomas Haney Secondary School. (Shelli Silvestri/Special to The News)

Maple Ridge Secondary school program giving “Wings” to student with diverse abilities

Windows at Thomas Haney Secondary’s Learning Services transformed through student’s artwork

An 18-year-old with diverse abilities and exceptionalities has recently transformed School District 42’s Learning Services office windows within Thomas Haney Secondary School (THSS) with his artwork.

Jacob, a student with the Maple Ridge Secondary School (MRSS), and part of the Wings program, was hand-picked by Shelli Silvestri, the work experience facilitator for students with diverse abilities, to put his artwork out in the public domain.

“A large part of my job is to place students throughout our community in work experiences based on their passions, desires and goals for post-secondary. Whether it is paid employment, day programming or volunteering in the community, students need to learn through experience in meaningful situations to practice skills they need to build self-esteem and connections, as they enter into life after high school,” she explained.

Silvestri met Jacob a couple of months ago at a Transition into Adulthood Group she helps facilitate, and his artwork inspired her and made her very happy.

“I knew he was one of the students that I was going to be placing in the community. I knew some of his needs. I knew it would be amazing for Jacob if he shared his gift with other people. So I asked the education assistant who was supporting Jacob what she thought of the idea of Jacob doing some Christmas painting on our Learning Service office window,” said Silvestri.

The education assistant thought it was a great idea and gave a go ahead.

“From there, I am happy to say that Jacob loves coming to THSS and he gets to ride the elevator for his breaks. From the moment he started painting the windows at Learning Services, the students and staff as they walked by, gave Jacob so much positive feedback and it was obvious his art uplifted everyone that passed by the beautifully lit up window,” said Silvestri.

Jacob is part of the Wings program, which is a small program at MRSS that supports students with a variety of abilities. This is also his final year in the program, explained his support teacher, Ramona Cruickshank.

“Jacob has always had a love for art and it’s immersed into his day. He also has a love for elevators and spending time at Thomas Haney Secondary School this year, was one of Jacob’s goals. Jacob has worked hard to overcome challenges and work in different environments. Opportunities like this allow him to share his gift with others and interact with others outside of his core network,” said Cruickshank.

What this experience means to Jacob, he explains in a very straightforward, down-to-earth manner.

“Winter is my favourite season and Christmas is my favourite holiday. Drawing makes me happy. Painting on Thomas Haney’s windows makes other people happy,” said Jacob.

For Jacob, this work experience could potentially be the beginning of a job, painting in the community, and gaining employment while pursuing his passion, adds Silvestri.

“For me personally, that is better than any paycheque I love the community connections piece for the students. Students who have challenges may need adaptations and a different way of reaching their goals. They perhaps need more time, or adjustments at the job placement, to facilitate success,” she said.

For Silvestri, the more people are aware of Jacob’s artwork, the better for everyone.

“Watching so many people stop, take a minute and smile at Jacob’s talents, this kind of joy should be shared with our entire community, not just the Learning Services community,” said Silvestri.


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Jacob, the 18-year-old with the Wings Program at MRSS, has been painting the windows of the Learning Services office at Thomas Haney Secondary School. (Shelli Silvestri/Special to The News)

Jacob, the 18-year-old with the Wings Program at MRSS, has been painting the windows of the Learning Services office at Thomas Haney Secondary School. (Shelli Silvestri/Special to The News)