Posts Tagged ‘socially disadvantaged’

Disabled Teens Take Their Turn Changing Lives

Friday, March 14th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

In a classroom decorated with primary-colored posters detailing how to tell time, multiply and “Follow Your Conscience,” teens with various disabilities from St. Dominic’s School packed boxes with donated food to support Catholic Charities “Feeding Our Neighbors” campaign.

“A lot of these children feel disconnected,” said St. Dominic’s Principal Paul Siragusa. “Helping feed the hungry makes them feel they have an impact on society that they never before could have dreamed of.”

And the 80 students, ages 5- 21, had a major impact. Together they took on the entire food drive, from making posters to studying foods’ nutritional values to soliciting donations to preparing food for distribution. All told, the students collected 500 pounds of food, enough to provide the hungry with 625 meals.

Some of the financially less fortunate children contributed as well, which, Mr. Siragusa said, “was worth more than an adults bringing in an entire bag.”

Located in Rockland County’s rolling hills, St. Dominic’s School provides targeted learning for children with special needs. Its intimate size, including two instructors for every eight students, is balanced by its large reputation. St. Dominic’s draws children from New York City, Westchester, Rockland and Orange counties whose needs are too great to be met by their local schools.

The school is part of Saint Dominic’s Home. This nonprofit Catholic social welfare agency affiliated with Catholic Charities is dedicated to meeting the educational, physical, social, emotional, medical, vocational and spiritual needs of 2,300 individuals who are developmentally disabled, socially disadvantaged and/or vocationally challenged.

Founded in 1878, Saint Dominic’s Home began as a safe haven for immigrant children who had been abandoned on the streets of New York City. Today, St. Dominc’s Home provides person-centered care for individuals with developmental disabilities in the Bronx, Orange and Rockland counties so they can live their lives with hope and dignity in a family-like setting. It prepares and supports foster parents so they can give children, who often have been neglected, abused, or abandoned, a brighter future and a loving home and family. It delivers a continuum of care to adults with mental illness and provides them the greatest level of independence. It grows the minds of disadvantaged preschoolers so they are motivated to excel. It gives children and youth with developmental disabilities and serious emotional disturbance living at home the opportunity to live in a more stable family environment.

And, through St. Dominic’s School, it enables children facing emotional and educational challenges to reach their potential.

The food drive, Mr. Siragusa said, has served as a springboard for a variety of activities. Students now participate in “Letters to the Heroes” where they write letters to soldiers thanking them for their service. They also take part in “Operation Goody Bag,” sending candy and homemade Valentine’s Day cards to first responders.

Despite their personal challenges, the students have learned, Mr. Siragusa said, that “there is always something they can do to help someone else.”

Learn more about St. Dominic’s School and Home.