Sunera Samarakoon isn't just a School Support Worker. He is a role model.
Since starting work at John Oliver Secondary, Samarakoon has been working closely with Harman Maddhar, a Grade 8 student with a disability who has dreams of one day pursuing a career singing. Samarakoon, who is also in a wheelchair, works closely with Maddhar to support him day to day. He's been instrumental in getting Maddhar into the JO Dance Squad, helping with school work and providing other support.
"He's incredibly compassionate with the kids," says McGeer. "He's as easy as a hot knife through butter to work with. He has a great demeanor and is collaborative."
Samarakoon says part of the advantage he brings to his work as an SSW at JO is his understanding of the unique challenges students like Maddhar face.
While JO is remarkably accessible (a far cry from what Samarakoon faced when he attended secondary school), there are plenty of other things that can make like difficult.
"I come into their shoes. I know what their challenges are, but I don't pity them or sympathize," says Samarakoon. "I want them to adapt to society with able bodied people."
In addition to his work at JO, Samarakoon is also a basketball coach at Thunderbird Elementary. Samarakoon says the coaching work has allowed him to break down barriers among students who have never been coached by someone who is in a wheelchair.