A student in a wheelchair realized her dream!

Tommy has neither feet nor calves and it is missing the last knuckle of her fingers. He is in a wheelchair. Despite everything, the young man enrolled in the course of scuba diving CSTJ, which he completed with flying colors


DIVING. Tommy St-Onge, a young man in a wheelchair who is studying at the Cégep de Saint-Jérôme, wanted to do scuba diving. Thanks to the help of his physical education teacher Olivier Morin-Gauthier, of the Service of assistance for the integration of students (SAIDE) and a generous volunteer, Philippe Cossette, his dream became a reality.

:”In the first course, Tommy arrived at the swimming pool. When I saw it, without feet or calves, it was made to work hard in my head. I asked myself how I could adapt my lessons to his needs”, explained Mr. Morin-Gauthier.

During this meeting, the teacher has submitted Tommy to the same exercise selection as the other students. To qualify, he had to perform 200 meter swim and 10 minutes of swimming on the spot, what he has done. “This is a brave young man and doesn’t let himself stop. He absolutely wanted to do the course,” added the teacher.

“I told him that I would do anything for me to adapt to his reality, but that I had to first and foremost make sure I do it safely. We must not forget that I have other students to watch, including some who are less comfortable in the water and Tommy is running out of steam more quickly, because he can’t rest by placing a foot on the ground,” argued the teacher.

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Mr. Morin-Gauthier contacted the SAIDE who has hired a master diver extra to support Tommy in his learning. The teacher has also been able to count on the support of a volunteer, Philippe Cossette. The latter has found that Tommy could not get to make his course without fins adapted. It was therefore decided to make them.

“Philippe has made an appointment with Tommy, has done research, has molded its members with plaster to make an imprint, has shopped for materials, and finally completed the design of the fins. Several prototypes had to be made before arriving at a model that meets the needs of Tommy,” said Mr. Morin-Gauthier.

“It’s really cool and generous of him. I was not expecting that,” testified Tommy.

Note that the production of the fins has been financed, in part, by the SAIDE, as well as by Mr Cossette. The latter has also purchased a combination of diving he intends to adapt specifically to Tommy.

No rights

To get his certification Open Water Diver PADI, a scuba diver should master 47 motor skills. However, the course of diving offered by the Cegep of Saint-Jérôme is specifically intended to prepare students to obtain this certificate. Tommy has had to submit to the same requirements as their colleagues. To do this, he has had to learn to kick with his hands, to have a better management of its buoyancy, to make it up to the water and its exit from the water, alone, as well as to handle its equipment.

Tommy will pass his exam to get the certification the 4 and 5 June next, with the other students of his course.

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“I chose a course that interested me, there were no other reasons behind it,” concluded the one who plans to register in the second course of scuba diving CSTJ, the next session, and caresses the dream to dive in the Caribbean waters. (C. A. J.)