Christopher Knight, director of the Diocese of Cleveland Secretariat for Catechetical Formation and Education and superintendent of Catholic schools, announced a bold, new educational initiative earlier this week.
“Better Together” will educate exceptional learners at an initial group of 40 Catholic schools in the eight-county diocese. Funding for the new venture will come from the Alleluia Ball, the signature event of the Catholic Community Foundation, which is scheduled for Oct. 14 at the Global Center for Health Innovation/Cleveland Convention Center.
“Currently, many of our community’s Catholic schools lack the resources necessary to educate students who are exceptional learners. Including these students in our Catholic schools has far-reaching and impactful benefits, allowing all students to thrive and grow together,” Knight said.
“We want to make sure students are able to have the full benefit of a Catholic education,” he added.
The new venture was unveiled at the Academy of St. Adalbert in Berea, a school that Knight said embraces inclusion, which is the foundation for the Better Together initiative.
Susan Herman, St. Adalbert principal, explained how the school has worked to embrace and include all types of students, including those on the autism spectrum and with other learning disabilities. She said the school works with support programs to provide the staff needed to help these children succeed.
Most St. Adalbert students are what Herman calls general education students.
“We don’t want you to be able to pick out the ones with special needs. They’re all just kids who love and care about each other,” she said. For many families, it is important that all their children be able to attend the same school, rather than being scattered in different places, based on their needs, Herman said.
“It’s all about the students feeling welcome and respected and adults in the community – parents and staff – providing and modeling that acceptance,” she added.
In addition to Knight’s announcement of the new program, 74 schools and parishes received grant disbursements totaling more than $1.1 million from the Catholic Community Foundation. Funds were raised through the Rooted in Faith – Forward in Hope campaign.
The money will be used to enhance STEM programs, technology, robotics, engineering, curriculum development, entrepreneurship, early childhood education, visual and performing arts and capital improvements like new windows and doors and enhanced lighting and security. Parish awards will be used for sacramental preparation and theology programs.