Fourteen years ago Renee Laporte was a paramedic looking for a part-time job to fill in the hours of her split-shift. Answering an advertisement she saw to be a classroom aid for a kindergarten boy with cerebral palsy, Laporte has never looked back.
She applied to the Edmonton Catholic School Board for the position.
“They told me we have this little boy with cerebral palsy who chokes and has seizures — and that’s all they told me,” says Renee. “I said, ‘Absolutely, I would love to.’”
In January 2000 Nathan Devlin was attending the Holy Family School’s kindergarten in Mill Woods, Edmonton, Canada, when he first met Laporte, who would be his aid, caretaker, and friend for the next 14 years.
During the first trimester of Nathan’s gestation during his mother’s pregnancy with him, Nathan’s brain ceased its development. The label for this illness is ‘brain migration.’ As a result Nathan cannot speak, and must be tube-fed. But that did not stop Nathan from attending school, and with the help of Laporte, receiving his certificate of completion, the equivalent of a Grade 12 diploma.
Laporte, who is now 36, works five days a week with Nathan. She begins each day at 7:30am and finishes at 5pm. She gets Nathan out of bed, washed and dressed, and ready for each new day.
Laporte says that Nathan’s IQ was never tested. But he can solve problems and he has finished many of his school assignments.
“He understands everything that is said to him and interacts with his friends,” says Laporte.
Now that Nathan is 20 his ambition is to attend the fine arts program at MacEwan University.
Laporte is a devout Christian, “something I’m very proud of,” she says.
“This is my purpose; this is what I’m supposed to do,” says Laporte. “And why I say that is because this isn’t what I was planning to do. So I know God put it in my life.”