In 2017, Let’s Build A Path

Lucy (left) and friend in Kindergarten at The Cutting Edge Learning Academy in Valrico, Florida.

Cheers to 2017!

There is so much to be grateful for in this amazing year of inclusion in Catholic schools. So many advocacy organizations grew or even launched this year.

Congratulations to One Classroom – the organization supporting Catholic schools and Catholic families in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri. http://www.one-classroom.com/

To the brand new and first ever affiliate of the awesome FIRE Foundation https://firefoundation.org/ [doing good work in the Diocese of St. Jospeh/Kansas City, Missouri for over two decades and the leaders for all of us] the Fire Foundation for Northeast Iowa supporting the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa. http://firefoundationneiowa.org/about/

To the Catholic Coalition for Special Education (CCSE) for its anniversary of ten years (!) of doing this work and its continued tireless efforts for inclusion in the dioceses in and around Maryland and Washington, DC. http://www.ccse-maryland.org/

To Inclusive Catholic Education of Oregon, Inc. for its first conference for Catholic educators in and around Portland, Oregon last May and for already planning their second conference for May 2017! http://www.oregonice.org/about-us.html

To Arizona Catholic Schools Disabilities Fund for its support of families and educators in the Diocese of Phoenix and to the Diocese of Phoenix for its innovative resource – the Live Binder – for all of the Catholic schools teachers in their diocese and for their willingness to share it freely and widely with other educators across the nation. http://www.acsdf.org/

To the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida that held the 2016 Conference for Teaching Exceptional Students in Catholic Schools in cooperation with ICCBES (International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards) right before school began last July and for their 2017 Conference already being planned for July 17 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

To the Diocese of Orlando, Florida who began the first of its kind, innovative Catholic transition program for students ages 18-22 and students 22-16 to develop life skills and job skills within a Catholic setting. http://www.orlandodiocese.org/morning-star-transition-house-blessed-as-institution-of-mercy/

To the Diocese of Orange, California that challenged every school in their diocese to accept just one student that they would have said no to last year…following in the footsteps of Pope Francis who challenged every parish in the United States to welcome just one refugee family.

To the Diocese of Seattle, Washington for asking the question and having 18 Catholic schools self-report that they are moving toward full inclusion and for the supports they offer these schools.

To the mentors and Advisory Board members on our website who counsel so many people on how to move in the direction of inclusion in Catholic schools and model what it looks like day in and day out.

To the university professors who continue to research inclusion and best practices for students in the margins and freely share their work. In particular we are grateful to Dr. Martin Scanlan of Boston College, Dr. Mary Carlson of Marquette University and Dr. Cindi May of College of Charleston.

To the Catholic universities that have stepped up to the effort of inclusion – providing professional development for Catholic teachers and administrators, research and guidance: Loyola University of Chicago’s Greeley Center http://www.luc.edu/gcce/ , Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California and Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame is getting ready to launch the Program for Inclusive Education (PIE) in June of 2017! https://ace.nd.edu/inclusion/

To the first group that attended our Inclusion Summit 1 at the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) national conference in San Diego. It was moving and inspiring to see so many working across the country on inclusion in Catholic schools and to see the connections that are still rippling and moving all of these months later. Look for our Inclusion Summit 2 that will happen 4.17.17. All are invited!

To the donors who choose to donate to all of these organizations – including us!

We carefully and prayerfully use your money to get the most impact and are so grateful for your trust and support in this effort.

To the 45 Catholic schools that we have added this year to our Inclusive Catholic Schools Map here on our website!

You said YES!! Congratulations on making it happen and finding a way at your schools.

To the Diocese of San Diego, California that is moving in an incredible way toward inclusion including a training for all of their Learning Support Teachers in January 2017 and for this awesome announcement today of a Catholic Special Needs Fund created in concert with the Catholic Community Foundation of San Diego to provide opportunities to include children who need special education support within the Diocese of San Diego. https://ccsfd.org/donate-now/

We also thank the amazing inclusion advocates that continually support, teach and guide our efforts outside of Catholic education…including ParaEducate, Kids Included Together, The Inclusive Class and Think Inclusive and the whole group at #BetterTogether.

Finally, we honor and thank the children and the families that are the entire reason for this effort.

Your grace, your light, your example are our touchstone.

Through you, we see the face of Jesus.

So, clearly, it’s been a HUGE year for inclusion in Catholic schools…

The Partial Path

…but we are only part way there.

Almost everyday we take phone calls or emails from parents who look at our map and see no Catholic school anywhere close to them. (Hello, San Francisco Bay Area…Atlanta…New York…Texas) and it feels terrible to acknowledge that no Catholic schools are welcoming students with disabilities.

Terrible.

For many with disabilities the barriers to full participation are something they contend with every day.

Here, in the above picture, you are welcome to the beach…but only this far.

Access and opportunity mean everything.

For us Catholics, let us consider this metaphor.

How often do people with disabilities feel only a partial welcome in our parish and school communities?

It is our job to advocate and facilitate a FULL welcome in ALL parishes and in ALL Catholic schools…a path all the way down to the ocean.

In 2017, I believe we can find a way to build that path…both physically (let’s find a way to have wheelchair accessible doors into our churches, Braille and Large Print options for missalettes) and spiritually (open our CCD classes, our schools, our sacramental preparation).

We have come so far…I know that we can truly reach critical mass and transform our schools and churches.

It is up to each one of us.

If your parish or Catholic school is not inclusive…ask.
And offer your time, your energy, your passion to make this a reality where you are.
Keep asking.

Be the woman at the wall.

We can build the path.
2017 is our year to do it.

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