Most young women can’t wait for the day they can move out of home and find their true independence, and that’s no different for 26-year-old Ariana Nioa.

Ariana, who has Down Syndrome, said she was both ready and excited to move into a new apartment on the Sunshine Coast with her friend after spending the past two years learning the skills to live independently at STEPS Pathways College.

Caloundra’s STEPS Pathways College teaches young adults living with disability and autism the skills they need to live an independent lifestyle in an immersive boarding college that combines classroom learning with hands-on applications.

“I feel really happy that I have been able to learn all the things that help me live and work independently in the community,” Ariana said.

“I go to work at the RSL, and do volunteer work at my local nursery, go to dancing on Tuesdays and pottery classes on Fridays, and I get to live in my own place with my friend.

“And in the future, I want to travel to Egypt to see the pyramids, do some study and continue with my pottery making and maybe get some more hours at work.”

Ariana’s mother Anne Nioa said surprisingly she didn’t have any concerns about enrolling her daughter into a boarding college a few hours away from home.

“Ari’s achievements since starting at the college may be too numerous to mention, but her ability to now travel intercity by public transport is amazing to me,” Anne said.

“Now, our life now is far less hurried and stressful – she enjoys her own freedom and work life and I am now able to do the same.

“I would encourage any parent to become part of the ‘Pathways Club,’ visit the college, speak with the staff and other parents that have entrusted this very important learning stage of their young person’s transition to independence.

“I certainly believe that anyone who sees firsthand what happens at the college would want to be a part of this very special group,” Anne said.

Pathways College training manager Jason Keen says Ari’s continuing to grow in her independence and her journey has not stopped since graduating college.

“At college I witnessed Ari grow in many ways, most importantly I witnessed Ari become more confident and less dependent on others to make her decisions,” Jason said.

“The Pathways program is perfect for young women who would like to move out of home and become more independent in their life but need some extra support and that steppingstone to get going.”

Pathways College is expanding and now taking enrolments and is best suited to students living with autism and intellectual disabilities, call (07) 5458 3000 to find out more.                                     

Caption: Three generations celebrating Ariana’s achievements in her new apartment. L-R:  Barbara Nioa, Ariana Nioa, Anne Nioa and Glenys Robinson.

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