From Participant to President: Michael’s Journey with Community Living Ontario

Throughout its 70-year history, Community Living Ontario has provided opportunities for people who have an intellectual disability to explore their interests, build their skills and confidence, and give back to their communities. Your thoughtful and generous support allows us to continue the fight for inclusion and for incredible people like Michael Jacques to choose their own paths to meaningful lives.

Read Michael’s story below, and please continue to support Michael and all of us at CLO by donating today through clicking the button below as we create more opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to make their own choices.

Thirty-two-year-old Michael Jacques always has a twinkle in his eye — especially when it comes to teasing his father, Marcel, who has just asked him a particularly obvious question. “It’s very important to donate, Dad, because it makes a big difference for people involved in Re:Action4Inclusion and for the other great programs that Community Living Ontario offers,” explains Michael.

“It’s important because none of this stuff would happen without donations.”

– Michael Jacques

If the answer seems obvious to Michael, it’s probably due to his long and involved history with Community Living Ontario (CLO). Michael’s journey dates back to when Mrs. Phillips, a thoughtful educational assistant, noticed flyers for a new youth-focused inclusion initiative called Reaction4Inclusion (R4I) at his school and thought that then–high schooler Michael would be a great fit.

Michael recalls his quick progression within R4I: “I was a participant, then an organizer, and then I became a presenter — as well as a very big part of the whole initiative!”

“R4I helped me to break out of my shell, to show authentic inclusion. It helped me to help other people in my community.”

– Michael Jacques

It’s through his involvement with R4I that Michael was recognized with the Inclusion Award at his school. At the ceremony, many people from the community attended, including members of Community Living Welland-Pelham.

Community Living Welland-Pelham enjoyed Michael’s acceptance speech so much that they called him with an invitation to join their Board of Directors, where Michael served for six years.

Not content with the status quo, Michael eventually decided to run for a position on CLO’s Board of Directors.

With the knowledge that Michael has autism and cannot read or write, existing Board members offered complete support given Michael’s many other gifts as a communicator and leader. After winning a position on the Board, Michael set his ambitions even higher. He ran for, and won, the position of Board President, becoming the youngest and first to have an intellectual disability and autism in CLO’s 70-year history. “When I was elected president, I was very glad, very honoured,” says Michael. “It felt like an out-of-body experience, and I was so excited!”

Michael served as President for two years before his term ended this past September. During his term, Michael was able to accomplish a great deal, including meeting with the Minster of Children, Community and Social Services on multiple occasions to discuss crucial issues, guiding CLO through a pandemic and many other challenges. More than anything, he hopes his accomplishments can serve as an example and inspiration to others:

“Like I always say: When I do things, it’s not for me — it’s for other people who have disabilities to show them that anything’s possible.”

– Michael Jacques

In addition to his work with CLO, Michael has several other notable achievements, including working on a committee with the Minister of Education regarding special education, becoming a sought-after speaker at events, and authoring two books.

Michael has also worked part-time at Sobey’s for many years, which has helped him gain confidence and independence. He credits his experiences at Community Living Ontario as being key to his success at work and in other areas of life as well:

“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for R4I and for CLO and all these amazing initiatives over these years. I would not be able to do any of this stuff without them.”

– Michael Jacques

Michael’s dad, Marcel, adds, “That’s what I want — for Michael to be able to survive, work, and live on his own in community; that’s what we all want and that’s what Community Living Ontario is all about”.

“So, I encourage you to donate because CLO offers so many wonderful programs for people with intellectual disabilities,” Marcel continues. “But, at the same time, in a lot of the initiatives, anyone can take part — someone doesn’t have to live with challenges.

Donate now by clicking the button below.