All through high school Devon Stoyka remained passive when it came to approaching teachers and advocating herself to maintain her academic performance.

“Whenever I spoke to anyone of academic authority I would become timid and find it extremely hard to express my views accurately and assertively,” says Stoyka, who has cerebral palsy and a learning disability.

But now, the aspiring psychology counselor at Ryerson University is enthusiastic about academic life thanks to an innovative orientation program for students with learning and other disabilities launched by Ryerson’s Access Centre. The pilot program, called Online to Success, enables students like Stoyka to recognize their learning challenges and provide them with resources necessary to facilitate their academic needs.

“Students must recognize that they have all the resources they can use and they must be pro-active in their pursuit of academic success,” says Carolyn Stallberg, learning strategist and lead moderator of the program.

Six students participated in the six-week program, which consisted of one week of orientation and five weeks of online modules, which are designed to help students determine if they are an auditory or visual learner and fine-tune learning strategies on note-taking and essay writing. The program ended with a graduation dinner that took place last week.

Hilary Sampliner, who has a reading disability and was one of six participants, says that she is “no longer petrified” about life ahead of her.

“When I first signed up, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it turned out to be an amazing experience.”

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