Photo by Alan M. Dumoff
The eight graduates of Archbishop Damiano School, Westville Grove, assemble on stage during the school’s graduation ceremony on Monday, June 13. Archbishop Damiano School is a private special education school that serves individuals from ages 3-21 who have moderate to severe cognitive disabilities. On Monday, June 13, Archbishop Damiano School in Westville Grove held its school graduation, with eight proud students walking away with diplomas, and hope ahead of them.
The eight graduates are:
— Raymond Carr;
— Antoine Harvey;
— Justin Jimenez;
— Rachel Josephs;
— Sean McDonald;
— Anthony Payton, Jr.;
— Charles Rodriguez; and
— Andrea Thompson.
On the campus of St. John of God Community Services, Archbishop Damiano School is a private special education school that serves individuals from ages 3-21 who have moderate to severe cognitive disabilities. Its 170-plus students come from Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland counties.
Certified special education teachers, licensed therapists, skilled paraprofessionals, and nursing services work with students on basic skills instruction (socialization, language and motor development), functional life skills (helping students feel comfortable in home and community environments), community-based instruction (taking students out of classroom and into greater community), and work adjustment training (providing students aged 18-21 with transitional services such as job development, job coaching, and job placement, to boost their employability skills).
The Archbishop Damiano School graduation is “a stepping-stone, to the continuation of their life’s journey,” said Kate Flynn, school principal, adding that their accomplishments and successes will allow them to be “integral parts of their community, and interact with their peers.”
She is confident the students will make an impact in the greater community, “now that their education and foundation is behind them.”
There are three avenues Archbishop Damiano students can take after graduation, Flynn said.
One avenue the students can take is finding part-time jobs at area employers such as retailers or supermarkets, performing such tasks as stocking shelves or bagging groceries.
Another option, would be St. John of God Community Services’ Sheltered Workshop, where graduates work from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. assembling packets, shredding material, or handling other responsibilities.
St. John of God Community Services, with locations in Westville Grove and Pittsgrove Township, offers special education, vocational, and rehabilitative services to South Jersey residents with disabilities, from birth to adulthood.
Students with more severe cognitive disabilities can go daily to one of several area adult activity centers, and watch movies, make ceramic art, or just relax, while medical staff is on-hand for any assistance visitors might need.
Some 125 school staff, family members, and students attended the graduation, which had Joseph Ripa, Camden County Clerk as guest speaker. Graduates, as well, had the opportunity to address the audience, speaking about how much the school has helped them, and what they will miss about Archbishop Damiano School.
Flynn also thanked the 130 “dedicated and committed” staff members at the school. “The staff touch the lives of our students, day in and day out,” she said.