By KAT MULLARD
Participants from the Coffs Harbour Challenge program proved that sometimes the 'porpoise' of learning can be all about hanging out with friends and having fun.
This week about 15 participants of the Community Links program graduated from a six-week course entitled Marine Magic, and were rewarded with an opportunity to swim with the dolphins at the Pet Porpoise Pool in Coffs Harbour.
Most of us would agree that there's just something about dolphins ? their playful, sociable nature has long made them a favourite among people from all walks of life, and for these young adults, the experience was as magical as the name of the program suggests.
"They've just been blown away by the experience ? the grins just haven't left their faces," Disability Services manager from Coffs Harbour Challenge, Tanya Blundell said.
The program, run in conjunction with the Pet Porpoise Pool, was part of a series of courses designed to provide an interactive educational experience to young people with intellectual disabilities.
"The course teaches social skills and life skills, and delivers a meaningful experience in a supported environment. A lot of the participants have just finished Year 12, and this is a part of a larger program to help them with the transition into work, by providing an opportunity for them to move outside their normal circle of friends.
"People with intellectual disabilities seem to have an affinity with animals ? they really connect with them, and this program has provided them with first-hand experience of a variety of animals, including domestic animals, seals, dolphins, turtles, kangaroos, snakes, crocodiles and emus," Ms Blundell said.
It's not every day you get to swim with dolphins, and one course participant, Tyson, was so enthusiastic that he plans to celebrate another special occasion by repeating the experience.
"I want to do this on my birthday," he said.
For inquiries on other Community Links workshops, phone 6652 6066.