How the Inclusive Community Ambassador Network began...
An interview with its founder...Pat Mandaliti
What made you start the ICAN initiative?
The inspiration of the ICAN - Inclusive Community Ambassador Network was the birth of my son Matthew. He was born in 1995 with Down Syndrome. My personal and professional journey as a mother, advocate, teacher and vice principal has allowed me to reach inward and outward discovering the call of servant leadership providing our schools with the lived experience of Christian values. Before we can embrace individual needs there must be a movement from tolerance, acceptance and respect to affirmation. Along this continuum of diversity there is support and validation of differences. Treating everyone the same is discriminatory, as differences are the "agents of change". We must foster learning environments and relationships where diversity does not set us apart but brings us together in the struggle for understanding. "Inclusivity" is not merely a word, but needs to be an action that is practiced daily; requiring careful planning and monitoring in order for it to be realized in our Catholic schools.
What does ICAN mean to you?
ICAN is the core of what I believe Catholic education is all about. It is a "dream" and having it materialize in our Catholic schools makes it a reality. To be able to work at creating and sustaining compassion, empathy, and validation of all our students encompasses the Six C’s (Catholic Character, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Creativity and Innovation, Collaboration, Communication, and Citizenship) of our 21st century learner, which in turn is the essence of our students at YCDSB.
Has the ICAN initiative been recognized in any way?
In 2012, the Inclusive Community Ambassador Network won the Louise Russo Leadership Award at Empowering Youth Day Event. The ICAN initiative has been presented at When Faith Meets Pedagogy Conference, Luke 4:18 Conference, Special Education Part 1, 2, 3 courses, Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) Council Meeting at YCDSB, Religious Education Part 1, 2, 3 courses, Director's Council Meetings, Staff Meetings, Catholic School Council Meetings; as well as, YCDSB Professional Development Days - "Equity and Inclusion". It is my hope that it continues to flourish and spread in all our Catholic schools striving to empower and affirm every teacher and all learners.
Is there a final message you would like to give to ICAN ambassadors?
As ICAN ambassadors - you are the voice of change. Through your continuous work for inclusion, you give ALL students in our Catholic schools, especially those who may be marginalized an opportunity to shine. As ICAN ambassadors you become vocal advocates for anti-bullying and help students resolve differences through restorative practices in their classroom and school yard. You develop leadership skills that motivate and inspire others to be positive, creating a caring and safe school climate. Together we can and will continue make a difference!