While our physical campus remains closed as per state guidelines, Saint Catherine Academy continues
with daily distance learning and individualized online activities.
We welcome inquiries about enrollment for summer school and the 2020-21 school year, and will respond promptly.
Please call 203-540-5381 for more information.
We also ask for your support so we can continue to respond without jeopardizing our mission.
Read more and Make a Donation.
Our students come to Saint Catherine Academy to learn, to belong, to be recognized. We meet each student where he or she is, helping them to develop their interpersonal and academic skills, and take advantage of vocational experiences—all of which builds life skills needed for greater independence.
After the first week of “school at home,” Philip, an Academy student, opened his living room window and called out the name of every person he knew, then exclaimed, “Where are you?!”
Philip’s question embodies the need we all feel to stay connected, now more than ever. When the decision was made to close the Center four weeks ago, staff quickly regrouped to find ways for our students and young adults to continue to progress academically and maintain their living skills while at home.
Academy teachers and assistants have been reaching out regularly to individual families with lesson plans and suggestions for adapting material and activities at home. Students are completing worksheets, exercising, and trying out recipes sent out by their teachers. For students who do not have access to a printer, teachers are mailing packets to their homes. “We’re following each student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as much as possible,” said Eric Spencer, Director of Education. “It’s been helpful for our students and their families just to hear a teacher’s familiar voice on the phone, checking in.”
In the Adult Program, each of the 15 Direct Service Professionals (DSP) have taken one or two young adults on a rotating basis for the duration of the home stay. They call or FaceTime each day, talking with participants about what they have been doing, and sometimes sharing photos. Like the students, participants have been doing their ADLs (Activities of Daily Living), practicing their letters, watching movies, and talking to grandparents on Zoom. From her “home office,” Brady Cronin, Director of the Adult Program, also sends each family a daily schedule of activities for their young adult to help keep the structure of the day as similar to the Center as possible while remaining flexible.
“The daily FaceTime contact with Samera [DSP] has been a touchstone for Jessie in her long day at home,” said one parent, Michelle Rivelli. “Jessie has practiced her conversation skills, shown Samera her various craft projects and worksheets, and modelled her Disney costumes! Especially during this time of uncertainty, it is heartwarming to see how invested the Center is in Jessie’s welfare.”
Staff are meeting several times each week via Zoom to share their interactions with participants and families and strategize the best way to connect and adapt. A webpage of resources has been created for families to access, including a variety of links to academic resources, virtual tours, videos of staff and volunteers reading stories, art projects, a cooking project, and more. This past week, Matthew Hennessey, who provides music therapy to the Center, held live music classes on Zoom. The onscreen greetings were long and enthusiastic, as individuals recognized each other and enjoyed Mr. Matt’s familiar songs together.
“Philip loved the Zoom music session,” his mother said. “When he can see and interact with his classmates and the staff, he lights up and things become much more real. The learning information, YouTube videos and all that has been provided by the staff is VERY much appreciated.”
“The Saint Catherine community has always been very strong, and that is serving us well in this time,” said Helen Burland, Executive Director. “In answer to Philip’s question, ‘Where is everybody?’, we say ‘We’re here!’ and will continue to do all we can to keep our community connected.”
Some featured videos (see more on the Resources page):
“We Miss You!” A slideshow of our students and adults
Fr. Eric Silva offers a blessing for Saint Catherine Center
“Motivated by Faith and Committed to this Incredible Community”: A Message from Helen Burland, Executive Director
March 26, 2020
Dear Friends of Saint Catherine Center and Saint Catherine Academy,
As an organization with a mission to lift up all regardless of abilities, these have been very humbling times for all of us. Initially, it seemed that we would be able to continue to serve our students and young people with some modest restrictions. Then came the realization that this was not going to be possible and we made the very difficult decision to close the Center to provide for the health and safety of our students and adult participants, many of whom are medically fragile and our staff and their families.
We recognize the extraordinary burden that this places on our families and our limitations to ease that burden. But motivated by faith and committed to the incredible community at St. Catherine’s, we have rallied!
What have we put into action?
- We are providing education and program resources daily to our families to help bridge the time and maintain important skills through daily communication.
- We have offered the personal touch of phone contact to get better assessment of needs.
- We have recorded and shared stories with some key staff; we have shared music therapy videos through YouTube and we have offered art projects that are simple and home-based.
- We have created a new section on our website which offers all of these resources in one place.
- We have made a commitment to our staff that there will be no layoffs or furloughs through April and we will review on a month-to-month basis.
- We are caring for each other; praying for each other; supporting our learning community in ways we never thought of before.
All of this is possible because we have been so generously supported by you; we have been good shepherds of our resources and we have built a community that values each and every person in our broad circle. To that we say thank you for being with us; thank you for staying with us. We will continue to ask ourselves each day, “What can I do today to help?” As a reminder, here are the young people we support.
Helen C. Burland