Department Head, Metals Processing
New Brunswick Community College, Moncton
2015 Inclusive Education Award Recipient
Al Dewitt is the kind of person who finds a way to make things work. According to his colleagues, Al was coming up with methods to include students with disabilities long before that way was paved in our college system.
In the early years, New Brunswick colleges didn’t have the procedures or resources that exist today to support students with a disability. Nonetheless, college legend has it that, if necessary, Al himself would be a reader or a scribe for a student in his department.
Then, about 15 years ago, the New Brunswick government introduced a pilot project called NBCC Connections. The goal for the Connections project was to provide meaningful post-secondary education and training for people with intellectual disabilities in an inclusive educational environment.
Brian Robichaud was hired as an Inclusion Facilitator to work on the Connections program at NBCC Moncton. As he remembers, “It was obvious from the outset that I had an important ally in Mr. Dewitt. Intrinsically, he recognized the broad based benefits of inclusion and saw not only the value to the individual, but also to the community at large.”
The Connections project eventually became the Special Admissions program, which continues to this day. In the early years, Al Dewitt worked hard to persuade other departments to open their doors to inclusion by showing them how everyone gains from the experience. Soon doors were opening that were previously not. It was a huge win for Special Admissions and for all students with disabilities.
Many feel that Al Dewitt gives his students the best learning situation in their lives. He adapts programs, offers flexibility where there has been rigidity and creates resources when there are none. When meeting with a student with a disability, he focuses on their accomplishments and builds a strategy for success from that starting point. He has not only given them an education, either. He has also taught them essential independent living skills that will help them throughout their lives.
Al Dewitt’s strong leadership for inclusion for college students is well known and regarded by his peers and others. NBACL congratulates Al Dewitt on his 2015 National Inclusive Education Award, and thanks him for his commitment to furthering inclusive education practices in the community college system in New Brunswick.