Wider Horizons

A nursing student steps behind the blue curtain in a narrow hallway at Lethbridge College. James ChangShe’s greeted by a bright smile and excitement. She’s here to be fit-tested for a mask that will protect her while she’s working in the health care field for the duration of her studies at Lethbridge College. The man who greets her knows his job well, and within 30 minutes, she’s on her way, ready to learn and put her skills to practice.

It isn’t so much the task he completes at Lethbridge College that makes James Chang an inspiration, but rather, the way he quietly exudes positive energy and enthusiasm while overcoming obstacles. Chang works at Lethbridge College performing mask fit-testing for students and faculty in all of the college’s programs that send students to practicum settings where they may be exposed to communicable diseases. He ensures the students are adequately protected when placed in a practicum environment that could put them in harm’s way.

Chang has a developmental disability, but he has met this challenge and more. He has audited courses at Lethbridge College in the Office Administration program, has completed the Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) program and is now a proud employee.

“I just like it here,” he says. “It’s welcoming.”

It all started when his resume found its way to the Health Sciences’ leadership team. The team discussed possible job opportunities for Chang. Bill Nykiel, School of Health Sciences Placement Coordinator, and Rita Perry, Health Sciences placement specialist, met with IPSE staff members to see if they felt Chang was capable of doing a repetitive job, such as mask fit-testing. Perry says the IPSE team was confident Chang could succeed and would embrace the opportunity to do meaningful work at the college. Perry says they were right. “We met with James and were both inspired by his positive attitude, politeness and willingness to do a job.”

Perry and Nykiel worked closely with the ISPE team to create a step-by-step process for Chang to learn. “What really inspired me is that James practiced diligently for months to get it right.”  She added that he continues to take the fit-test kit home to practice and that his exceptional commitment and passion for the job is refreshing.

Beyond the skill part of the job, Perry says working in this role has allowed Chang to thrive socially. “Fit-testing has given him the confidence to interact with people and this has spilled over beyond the job,” she says. “He is helpful and kind to everyone and does not let his disability get in the way.”

Chang is determined to succeed and not let his disability hold him back. In addition to mask fit-testing, he has volunteered at the college selling tickets at a basketball tournament. He says he enjoys contributing to the community and meeting new people.

Inspirational people often have equally inspiring people working beside them. Chang says he owes thanks to his parents for telling him he could do it. He also appreciates the support he has received from his home staff, Heather and Katlyn; the team at IPSE, Tyler Jacques and Madison Reamsbottom; and Jacques and Perry as they helped him prepare for mask fit-testing by throwing him curveballs to test his skills.

Wider Horizons
By Megan Shapka
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