Have you ever thought about starting a school?
Have you ever been so fearful that the educational opportunities for your child were so lacking that starting a school was your only option? In the spring of 2018, those thoughts crossed my mind daily. My son, Matthew is on the Autism spectrum. At the time, he was in the 6th grade in the Sacred Heart Cathedral School Morning Star Program. He was thriving in their loving, Christian environment. Unfortunately, a similar high school program did not currently exist. Nor did I know the first thing about starting a school.
I received an email in April 2018 in an apparent answer to my thoughts and prayers. David Kimbell, then Assistant Principal at Sacred Heart, asked me to join a committee. A committee tasked with assessing the feasibility of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee creating a Morning Star High School. The committee, comprised of parents, educators, religious and diocesan leaders, studied finances, curriculum, and physical plant needs. We also reviewed community needs and targeted students. The Diocese hosted parent interest sessions and a last-minute, grassroots fundraising campaign. Ultimately we received just enough pre-registrations and donations to proceed with a fall 2020 opening.
I believe in Mother Clelia Morning Star High School and the community need for it, unlike almost any other project I ever supported.
For students like Matthew, socialization with typical peers is so important. They live in a world surrounded by neurotypical individuals; they should attend school with those individuals in preparation for life after graduation. Mother Clelia Morning Star High School (MCMSHS) combines the best of both worlds. Individualized education plans with opportunities for inclusion, depending on each students’ needs.
On August 24, 2020, by the grace of God and generosity of donors, MCMSHS welcomed twelve new students to campus at Pensacola Catholic High School. What might appear to outsiders as an otherwise normal “first day of school” seemed “historic” to those grateful parents and anxious students. This first class hails from both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties and includes boys and girls in grades nine through twelve. This program ultimately represents the Diocese’s commitment to students with special needs matriculating from Pensacola Catholic elementary and middle schools.
“Mother Clelia Morning Star High School provides a faith-filled, Catholic education to students with special needs in the Pensacola community. By serving students with love and support, we prepare them for independence and success after high school.”
The Diocese hired the talented and committed Amanda Jansen as Director and Lead Teacher. She is joined by Mrs. Fulton and Mrs. Brown. These ladies accepted the challenge of creating a new school, a curriculum, and a road map forward during this unprecedented year. When I asked Ms. Jansen to share her thoughts on leading this program, she shared, “We are just so excited to bring this learning environment to our community.” She continued saying, “We still have room for enrollment, volunteers, and community partners. We would love to connect with the community for field trips (eventually), service work opportunities, and any organizations looking to support a worthy cause.”
For more information about Mother Clelia Morning Star High School, contact Amanda Jansen at [email protected]