As we reopen our physical campus while following State guidelines,
Saint Catherine Academy and our Adult Program also continue
with daily distance learning.
We welcome inquiries about enrollment for the 2020-21 school year.
Please call 203-540-5381 for more information.
We appreciate your support. 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.
Although the outdoor venue was different, Saint Catherine Academy Graduation 2020 was no less joyful for this year’s graduates, Ronald Scott and Elise Hilton. The two were celebrated in a ceremony at the Center with immediate family, staff, and a few classmates in attendance.
Monsignor Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown and Center Board Member, led the prayer service and offered a short homily in which he noted that even while the pandemic has taken away so much from many, it has also reminded us of what really matters in life. “You truly see the goodness of people… Certainly today is an example of that as we celebrate Elise and Ronald and the great gift that they are for each one of us, the love and joy they bring us in their own unique ways, reminding us of the preciousness and joy of life.”
Lorraine Hilton, Elise’s mother, offered Prayers of the Faithful. After the presentation of diplomas, Eric Spencer, Principal, read words of affirmation from staff about the graduates, noting Elise for her “warm, angelic smile” and Ronald for his “great spirit and enthusiasm.” Ronald was also one of several students recognized by the Diocese with the St. Thomas Aquinas award for academic improvement and exemplifying Gospel values through service to others.
In his closing prayer, Msgr. Weiss repeated the message of the scripture reading. “The message today is to be grateful,” he said. “Even in the midst of our darkest moments, to find reasons to be thankful. Certainly this holy place provides reasons for being thankful every day.”
The ceremony closed with a lively version of “This Little Light of Mine,” a Saint Catherine Academy tradition. “It was a wonderful day, in the true Saint Catherine way,” Helen Burland, Executive Director commented.
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