Learning to lead

Katrina Doolen
Steph St. John has faced plenty of challenges in life. She is a single parent. She also has a mild intellectual disability. Steph recently started a leadership course. She is the first person with an intellectual disability to do the course. Steph wanted a new challenge. She also wanted to get some confidence back. Steph has learned valuable new skills. She says she has learned a lot about herself. Steph now wants to find new ways to use her skills. She wants to get more involved in sport. She also wants to help improve the lives of people with a disability.
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Katrina Doolen on 13/07/2011
A portrait photo of Steph St. John smiling. She has brown shoulder length hair and is wearing glasses.

Steph St. John: no stranger to challenges

Steph St. John is no stranger to challenges. She is a single parent who has a mild intellectual disability. She also has depression and anxiety. Steph recently took on the additional challenge of a community leadership course. She's the first person with an intellectual disability to do the Leadership Wimmera course.

Steph has worked in customer service at an aquatic centre for three years. But recently she has wanted a new challenge. Steph also wanted to regain some lost confidence. Steph considered the Leadership Wimmera course, but could not afford it. Fortunately, her employment consultant told her about a sponsorship opportunity. They also assisted her to complete the sponsorship application.

Learnt a lot

The experience has been invaluable according to Steph. I've learnt a lot about myself so far, says Steph. I've been reminded of what skills I already have and I can do it. Steph says she has also learned how to cope with other daily challenges.

Leadership Wimmera has encouraged the development of local leadership since 2002. Participants develop their leadership skills through attending workshops and running small group projects. Workshops cover a range of topics including managing conflict and leadership styles. Participants then get to practice their new skills in community-based projects.

Coped well

Steph has coped well with the demands of the course apart from one activity. Sometimes she has difficulty understanding certain words. But the trainer will clarify what he has said if Steph needs it. In group activities Steph asks someone else to do the writing.

The course has 14 participants, each from different backgrounds. We get along well and everyone treats me the same, says Steph. I don't think anyone knows that I have a disability.

Group project

Steph is currently working on a group project. The project aims to increase the awareness of Leadership Wimmera across the region. It was something that appealed to Steph. She has interviewed past participants about their experiences and learnings. Fortunately, all of Steph's group live in Horsham. It makes it easier to meet and for Steph to arrange babysitting.

Steph believes her leadership skills are improving. She is feeling more confident at work. She is also taking more initiative. Recently she applied for a different role. She says she wasn't successful but is very keen to demonstrate her new skills.

New skills

Work isn't the only place where Steph has used her new skills. She is also assisting with basketball program Aussie Hoops. Steph played competition basketball for nine years. Steph played at state, national and international level. She is no longer able to play due to knee problems. But she is pleased she can now use her leadership and basketball skills to assist with Aussie Hoops. In the future she would like to get into coaching.

Steph has big plans to use her new leadership skills and extended networks. She wants to find new ways to utilise her passion for sport. She also wants to become more involved in issues that are important to improving the lives of people with a disability.

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