In October 2011, Terry Wilson of Dartmouth was introduced to the Dartmouth Learning Network. He had attended many programs throughout his life with little success. “I realized that if I wanted to improve my reading and writing this place was the only place that was going to help me,” says Terry.
For several years Terry has been a volunteer with the Halifax Chapter of Peoples First. Established in Nova Scotia in 1989 the goal of People First is to promote equality for all people who have been labeled intellectually disabled. When you ask Terry why he became involved his message is strong and clear – “I wanted to help close down residential institutions and help people live better lives and become more independent. I think living in a small group home is a better way to make this happen.”
Terry was and still is determined to “make change happen.” He has a plan and he is sticking to it. First step was to enroll in the Dartmouth Learning Network. Second step was to work hard to improve his reading and writing skills (Terry loves to write short stories that are often based on his life experiences and his friends). Third step was to become the President of the Halifax Chapter of People First.
Terry approached his classroom teacher, Cathy Cusack, and shared his goal with her. When asked what steps he needed to take to make his goal a reality, Terry without hesitation said “I need to write a speech and deliver it at the People First Annual General Meeting. Can you help me?” And so the journey to becoming the President of the Halifax Chapter of People First began.
“There was never any doubt that Terry would achieve his goal,” say Cusack. “Terry believes strongly in the cause of People First. Helping him achieve his goal was simply a matter of working with him to put his words on paper, and then helping him practice delivering the speech in front of a group of people.”
In the fall of 2012 Terry Wilson stood before a group of people at the People First Annual General Meeting delivering a speech he had written and practiced with his classroom teacher. “Helping people understand People First is important to me and those who are part of our organization. I want to help to raise money and to bring in guest speakers. I want to work towards closing down institutions where large groups of people who have been labeled intellectually disabled live and move them into small group homes where they will have a better quality of life. I want to help remove the label intellectually disabled. We are all capable of learning and doing, for some of us it may take a little longer to get the job done. I am 59 and I am working hard to improve my reading, spelling, writing and math. I plan to work hard to make those changes happen and when I have done everything I can do here in Nova Scotia I would like to become President of People First Canada.”
In October of 2012 Terry realized his goal of becoming President of the Halifax Chapter of People First. With the help of an advisor he is learning how to lead meetings and create action plans and is enjoying his new role as President. Terry continues to attend classes at the Dartmouth Learning Network. “My teacher spends lots of time helping me, and because she helps me I can help others,” says Terry.