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 First year Creative Arts student Geraint enjoys the college sports facilities, swimming pool and gym, takes part in basketball and football sessions. His first love is performing arts; he is part of Derwen College’s Makaton Choir, enjoys dance, and is looking forward to being involved in future College shows.

We asked Geraint and his mum Sarah about how they discovered Derwen and what Geraint has enjoyed over this first term at Derwen.

How did you first find out about Derwen College?

I was visiting my nephew who was an in-patient at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital in Gobowen. I was looking for books and educational items for him to make his stay more stimulating and I came across the Derwen Garden Centre by chance. Meeting disabled people working there, I remember thinking ‘how cool is this?’ I asked a member of staff to tell me more and she explained it was a college for people with special educational needs and disabilities. I went home and did some research, wondering if it would be a place my son might fit into to learn theatre skills alongside receiving the speech therapy he needs.

When you visited, what made you and Geraint think that it was the right place?
Seeing other students with Down’s Syndrome (currently 16% of Derwen students) made me feel that this would benefit Geraint because he’d just be part of the ordinary everyday which is what we both want. I was particularly interested in the performing arts aspect and I was able to visit a performance class which really grabbed my interest.

How did you find the Admissions process?
The admissions process initially seemed daunting but I managed to work through it. I was supported by the team of professionals around Geraint back home who all felt excited about the idea of letting Geraint have the going away to college experience, a long-standing ambition of mine for him.

Did you know from the beginning which pathway Geraint wanted to follow?
Creative Arts – in particular the performance and theatre aspect which is Geraint’s long-standing passion. His ambition is to perform on stage. I believe theatre is a helpful subject to pursue because of Geraint’s severe communication disabilities and need for speech and language therapy. Theatre can be so empowering in this context.

What does Geraint enjoy most about his time at Derwen?
Geraint says: ‘shopping, music, going bowling’. He likes engaging with the staff. He’s proud of moving on from the family environment.

What has Geraint learnt over his time at Derwen?
Geraint is learning to transfer skills he learned at home – such as keeping his room organised, helping with shopping, planning meals – into a new environment in his residency. He’s always been helpful, he is still! It’s great that he’s broadened his horizons to move on to new things.

Where are Geraint’s aspirations for the future?
Geraint wants to learn to be a performer, go on stage and entertain people. He’s The Greatest Showman!

What makes you proud to support World Down Syndrome Day?
People with Down’s Syndrome are rightly stepping up and self-advocating. I’m delighted to see people living with Downs becoming visible, active members of society; as talented, engaging individuals. World Down Syndrome Day aims to raise the profile of people living with the condition and I wholeheartedly support it. It’s also such a fun day for everyone, and right now we all need some extra fun.

Watch Derwen College’s World Down Syndrome Day video here.