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Why Belonging Matters: A Parent’s Perspective

1 year ago

When my daughter gets back from school each day, the stories she shares are always accompanied by a smile. Certainly she doesn’t always enjoy tests or homework — what child does? But she never balks at school itself. She literally loves it.

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It’s clear to me she respects and is friends with everyone on staff, even the principal. She comes home with comments on her teacher and how funny he is, and I can’t help but appreciate how closely they know her, and how they treat her not only as our child, but as a child of God.

This warm atmosphere permeates my daughter’s school: St. Lucy Day School for Children with Visual Impairments/Archbishop Ryan School for the Deaf (SLDS/ARAD). It’s an atmosphere that brings peace and belonging to a group of students who have experienced challenges in their lives. And, I believe, it’s an atmosphere that prepares them to succeed academically.

Peer relationships at SLDS/ARAD are similarly affirming.  My daughter and her classmates are a close group. They are typical tweens and teens that happen to share the experience of blindness.  They challenge each other to grow in independence, and their “modeling-up” peer motivation is a powerful force in my daughter’s life.  She will do things for her friends that I could never get her to try!

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This pervasive, positive environment is something I have been fortunate to witness since my daughter first enrolled at SLDS/ARAD. In fact, several years ago I wrote a letter to Chris Mominey, AOPS COO and Secretary for Catholic Education, specifically on the matter:

“I recently attended my daughter’s report card conference and was reminded of just how lucky we are to have a SLDS/ARAD education available to her.

The academic, spiritual, and social environment is amazingly supportive, yet appropriately challenging.

Through parent’s groups in which I participate, I know about the school options that exist nationally for kids with visual impairments, and SLDS/ARAD is among the best of those. I am fully invested in my daughter becoming a contributing member of society and the staff at SLDS/ARAD are right there with me.”

Creating and maintaining a great school is no easy task. I know the school environment we have at SLDS/ARAD does not exist everywhere. That is because not every school has staff working so hard to nurture their students’ confidence in themselves and to maintain a great atmosphere for learning and spiritual growth — despite facing the inevitable challenges of operating a school.

The educators here push themselves to stay ahead of ever-changing technology, and ensure the students are comfortable incorporating it into their studies and their lives. These teachers are called on to perform at the strategic and the operational level, day in and day out, year in and year out. The result is a truly great school.

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.” I am proud to know that SLDS/ARAD is preparing my daughter to bring her whole self to become part of that change.

Kim Lengel lives in Glen Mills, PA with her husband Dave and their two children.  Devon has attended St. Lucy Day School for Children with Visual Impairments/Archbishop Ryan School for the Deaf since 2011.