In 1995 we toured the school, a small converted church in Benson, desperate for an option…We were greeted by book pages covering the principal’s floor. He apologized for the disarray, explaining he was creating the 40 odd math syllabuses for the nearly 50 students.
“Wait-” I said. “You don’t force everyone into three peg-hole options?” Marcus was only five years old and I already displayed battle fatigue from our public school experiences. The idea of school staff being on the same team as Marcus, of our educating and preparing him together to face the world-that concept created hope.
A small back room served as SR. Mary Evangeline’s office, Hulk Hogan’s autographed photo stood out as an enigma. It wouldn’t have surprised me in the least if she told me she beat him in a wrestling match and pulled the winning belt from under her desk.
The story of the school’s beginnings, as I remember it, was that she went to enroll children from the St. James Orphanage into the public school system and they were turned away as “uneducable.” From my few conversations with the Sister, I expect her reaction was something similar to “Hogwash!” She began schooling them herself, believing in their potential to develop academically and cultivating their capacity for independent living. She became not only educator but also advocate in the community for those developmentally disabled - believing and proclaiming the value of caring for all God’s children.
In that first tour I felt the missing something from every other school we toured to that point: love. And I also felt a very powerful spirit of determination. Other halls I walked through dripped with defeat, not these. Even in the tiny classrooms and cramped halls, purpose filled the air.
Now, in the beautiful new school, the walls shine with it. The students show real pride in the corridors and classrooms of the Madonna School. And the current of self-worth is projected into the community.
The Madonna School is a difference maker in our town, connecting families to hope and dignity. It is a difference maker in our region, being the only private special needs school in the state, offering an option to searching families. It is a difference maker for the future as it prepares its students to be productive in society, to share their talents in our world.
This is an adapted quote originally credited to Marjorie Moore. It is modified only in specification but not intention. Supporting the Madonna School is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you help with the mission of empowering children, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.
© Mardra Sikora