Picture of children working in a classroom

Maryam’s Story

Do you remember your first day of high school? You were probably nervous. Anxious, but excited at the same time. Maybe wanting a little too much to fit in, and at the same time praying that no one would notice if you didn’t. The first day of high school is a big deal for anyone. It’s the start of a new chapter. It’s the final stepping stone before “the real world.”

Her world was so restricted that she was not even allowed to use the kitchen sink.

But for a young woman like Maryam, it’s so much more.

Born with developmental delays and almost completely blind, Maryam could only make out colours and shapes. Her parents constantly sheltered her from even the most basic of experiences. When she started the General Learning Program, her parents were consumed by worry. Every day they escorted her from home to school and then back home again, where she would watch TV quietly by herself.

Her world was so restricted that she was not even allowed to use the kitchen sink.

But in the General Learning Program, Maryam’s world opened wide when she was asked the question, “What are you curious about?”

Maryam was curious about food. It was one thing that she could really enjoy, the tastes and textures were amplified by her limited vision.

But at fifteen, she had never even set foot in a kitchen. She was afraid. While Maryam’s teachers tried different ways to engage her in the simplest of culinary tasks, she would timidly decline each time. It seemed impossible that she would gain the confidence required to explore her curiosities.

One day, someone brought a box of pears into the classroom kitchen. Maryam was fascinated by their interesting shape and vibrant colour. Her teacher offered her one, with the stipulation that she would have to learn to cut it herself. With the teacher steadying Maryam’s shaky hands, together they sliced the pear. She laughed with delight as she bit into the first piece, and immediately asked to try cutting another once it was done.

Maryam has been drawn to the kitchen ever since. The simple task of preparing herself a snack was all it took to help her realize that she was capable of so much more. After a life of isolation and overprotection, she was suddenly exposed to a world of possibilities. Maryam wanted to do more, and she deserved to learn how. But without donors like you, it may never have happened.

Maryam’s first pear was purchased with money from your donations.

Today, Maryam takes the bus to school on her own, and to the retirement home where she works three days a week in the kitchen. She serves and busses tables there, and is an absolute ray of light for the staff and residents.

Your support has transformed Maryam’s world.

Last year, she even joined the class trip to California, an incredible experience for someone who so recently was barely permitted to leave the house. Her bubbly enthusiasm is infectious evidence of the difference the Education Foundation of Ottawa is making in students’ lives.

Your support has transformed Maryam’s world.

What is the General Learning Program

The General Learning Program is a special initiative of the Ottawa Carleton District School Board. The 7-year program is targeted towards youth with disabilities that prevent them from obtaining their diploma. It is designed to cultivate life skills and prepare students to participate in the greater community after high school.

The General Learning Program as a whole could not run without donor support. Supplies for classroom activities, outings to the movies or to a pool hall to work on social skills, bus tickets to encourage independent travel around town, and more recently, an annual international travel expedition was introduced for senior students.

Your support allows students to participate in activities that build life skills. It provides life-changing excursions and trips that build social capacities and independence. Your generosity impacts the lives of students each and every day.



*Please note that the name has been changed to protect this youth’s identity.

Do you want to make a difference in the life of an OCDSB child?Please donate TODAY!