Alex Warner is a plant enthusiast and self-taught expert. He grows them, documents them and studies them every chance he gets. So when Alex, who has a developmental disability, joined Community Living Ontario’s Passport Mentoring Initiative, deciding on what type of profession to match him with wasn’t difficult.
“Alex has a history of delving into different species of plants, so it really helped me focus my search for a mentor,” says Patsy Pillay, Passport Mentoring Coordinator with Community Living Ontario. Based on Alex’s interest in plants, Patsy decided to look for a horticulturist to be his mentor, and that’s when she came across Adrien Gallant.
The Passport Mentoring Initiative is funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services and matches high school students who have a developmental disability with mentors. The mentors help the students learn more about their area of interest and explore ideas for their future, like career options or post-secondary education.
“When Adrien and I met,” says Patsy, “immediately I could see how passionate he was about plants, so I knew he would be the right choice to introduce Alex to.”
Since being matched, Alex and Adrien have been meeting regularly for the last year.
“I try to have a lesson to expand Alex’s knowledge of horticultural science,” explains Adrien. “It might be on PH levels, or a different aspect of plant growth, like propagation or pruning.”
Despite knowing more than the average person going in, Alex says that Adrien has taught him a lot and that he continues to learn something new every time they meet. More than that, Adrien has become an important support system for Alex.
“He’s helped me explore some of the different fields that there are, and pushed me higher,” explains Alex. “So he’s sort of been like a lever.”
In fact, Adrien has even helped Alex figure out what he would like to do after high school. Upon graduating, Alex plans to go to Niagara College and study horticulture so he can work in the field one day, just like Adrien.
“Passport Mentoring has been a great experience for me,” says Alex. “It’s worked out extremely well and I don’t think I’d be as far as I am now if I hadn’t become a part of it.”