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Mission accomplished for special needs

The Catholic Herald

Nov 7, 2019

A mission has been accomplished — all four diocesan high schools have a program allowing students with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to receive a Catholic education. 

The inaugural Diocesan Peer Mentor Leadership Institute, hosted by Marymount University, took place in Arlington Oct. 30. The institute was a collaborative event between the diocesan high schools to bring peer mentors with students with disabilities together to learn more and collaborate on their work. From each school, 10 peer mentors, inclusion leaders and a teacher attended the event. Marymount graduate students led the breakout sessions. 

“We believe our mentors are the inclusion leaders of the future,” said Susan Rinaldi, director of Expanded Services at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington. “We hope they will go forth to help facilitate greater inclusion for individuals with disabilities in society at large, in their future destinations for college, the workplace, their churches and communities.”

Rinaldi said the commitment to providing inclusive education to students with disabilities is unifying.

“At the high school level, our peer mentors make our inclusive services possible,” Rinaldi said. “Peer mentor programs are implemented differently at each school, but they have a common role in each school, working one-on-one with a student for the school year, assisting and supporting the student in a given class, and forming friendships.”

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