That seemed a daunting directive for a mom juggling the demands of young children. But Corrigan knew it was the right thing to do.
“I wanted a school that would instill in children to be the best people they can be and include faith-type programs, like Easter and chapel—those things were important.”
Corrigan tested her idea on her women’s Bible study. “Their (attitude) was more ‘good luck,’ versus, ‘wow what a great idea,”’ she said.
“I think people thought I was crazy—here I was a nurse, with three other young children, thinking about starting a school.”
She received encouragement from her husband and from her pastor, the late Msgr. Thomas Kenny.
So she forged ahead. In 1999, she started the school in rented space from a Baptist church in Sandy Springs. Caroline was enrolled. She was almost 10.
It was a bumpy start. And after one particularly frustrating and despairing day, she came home in the early afternoon and just “wanted to sit in my car and cry,” Corrigan says. But then she had an unusual visit.
“I look up and see this man in a white painter’s suit—we had some painting done at our house—so I thought maybe he was looking for work. I got out of the car and told him, ‘I don’t need any painting today.’ But he didn’t ask me for a job; he just gave me a textbook with a cover with an eagle on it and a bible verse.”
The verse on the jacket cover was from the book of Isaiah: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
“Then he left, and I never saw him again.”
The uplifting message, and the odd way it was delivered, gave her courage, she says.
(Story continues below)
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“It was such a turning point for me … I got back into the car and went back to the school … I realized that this school was going to keep going.”
This past year Sophia Academy marked its 10th year with more than 200 students. It received dual accreditation by both the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Southern Association of Independent Schools.
And Corrigan’s honor isn’t just for starting her own school: in the past few years, she worked with state Rep. Edward Lindsey, who wrote to recommend Corrigan’s nomination as Georgia mother of the year.
“Georgia owes a great deal to her for her efforts,” Rep. Lindsey said. It was during the Georgia General Assembly in 2007 and 2008 that Corrigan worked closely with him on the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Act. The act enables public school children with learning disabilities to be eligible for vouchers so that they may attend another public or private school in order to better address their educational needs.
Corrigan also received recommendations from her church pastor, Father Frank McNamee, of the Cathedral of Christ the King, and from John O’Connor, executive director of special services for the Dekalb County School System, as well as praise from the board members of Sophia Academy.
But perhaps most significantly, the Corrigans’ daughter, Caroline, who is now 21 years old, has received not only the HOPE scholarship but many other scholarships, is active in a sorority and is completing her college degree; her siblings are in college and high school as well. Today Caroline is just a college student, but her legacy remains grounded in her mom’s determination to make a difference in her life.