I Can try new things – Jen’s story

Jen’s I Can campaign poster has a large image of Jen smiling on the right hand side, holding an electric sander. On the left hand side there is a slogan which reads ‘I Can try new things’. Below that there is a quote from Jen; “I’ve been able to try so many different things and develop skills I will be able to use all my life.”

Jen Collier, a 20 year old student at RNC, is excited to be the new face of the College’s national I Can campaign and hopes to change perceptions of what people with visual impairments can achieve.

“Out of everyone in my family, I’ve got the most will-power and am most willing to try new things,” said Jen. “I am the only person in my family to have completed the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award – even my sighted sister dropped out and was impressed that I’d managed to do it.”

The support she receives from her family is vital to her. Jen was born in Pretoria, South Africa and moved to the Wirral when she was 16. She did not feel that the education she received in either country gave her the most benefit. At RNC she found she had the opportunity to try new things leading to her selection for the I Can campaign, to her mother’s excitement.

As well as having no sight due to being born prematurely, Jen has mild cerebral palsy in her left-hand side. “I have to be careful with some things,” she explained. “In the photo shoot for the campaign, I was holding a sander, as using power tools is something I have enjoyed learning to do. A heavy piece of equipment like that can affect my balance, so I took extra care.”

Jen’s interest in using power tools has come through studying on the ASPIRE programme. As part of becoming equipped for future employment through social, personal and independence skills, Jen has spent time at Dinedor Outdoor Education Centre learning how to use sanders and saws, working with wood from the 11 acre site.

“I was reluctant at first, but I had a go and really enjoyed it. The sander is my favourite,” she said. “It feels quite weird, almost like you are having your hands massaged because of the vibrations. It’s great to be able to use equipment like this and something I never thought I’d be able to do!”

Jen audio described her film for the campaign; another example of her interest in new experiences. “I am slightly nervous about this, although, I think it will be well-received,” she said prior to filming. “I was shocked to be asked to be part of the campaign, as I’ve never been at the forefront of things. I’ve always been left on the side before. I am really pleased to be a part of it.”

Jen is aware that there are many people in her home area of Liverpool and the Wirral who have visual impairments and who may be nervous about attending specialist or residential colleges. She hopes that her part in the I Can campaign will help people to realise what can be achieved, stating: “I’ve found my feet at RNC and really enjoy it here.”

Watch Jen’s I Can try new things film at www.rnc.ac.uk/ican

Article written by Anika Backhouse, PR, Publications & Outreach Officer at RNC