She told CNA that in Abby’s time at public school, her parents observed her in the corner of the classroom with a special education teacher, “not really being included in anything in the classroom.”
When Abby first arrived at the school, O’Dea said the school decided that, in order to properly live out its Catholic mission, it needed to find ways to support any student who wanted to attend.
The school partnered with local Merrimack College to hire a student studying moderate disabilities as a subsidized, full-time teacher to support Abby. O’Dea said the school’s decision was a success, because it was affordable and effective for Abby. St. Augustine continues to have a “Merrimack Fellow” today.
O’Dea said that hiring the Merrimack Fellow was “a very small investment financially for us to have such a great outcome in the end.” She says she would recommend it as an alternative to hiring a full-time special education teacher for the classroom.
Abby’s parents said that they stood “shoulder to shoulder” with the administration and staff throughout Abby’s schooling. They encouraged teachers at every grade level to gain more professional development and experience with special needs through local conferences and workshops.
While working full time, both of Abby’s parents spent much of their time at St. Augustine’s volunteering at Kindergarten centers, the lunchroom, as a chaperone on numerous field trips, and as active guild members helping to run events and fundraisers.
Wendy Agudelo said that partnering and collaborating with the school “every step of the way” bore amazing results.
“In my opinion,” Agudelo said, “it’s not about available resources as much as it is a willingness to start with ‘yes’ and work together towards a shared goal.”
“We’re not alone and believe that the more families know, the more armed with opportunity they become,” she said. “We’re very, very fortunate to have found such great academic partners for our children, but pepper in some serious faith and a sprinkling of compassion, and nothing is impossible!”
“Abby’s achievement is very impressive,” said Thomas Carroll, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston, to CNA. “But the biggest impact is the effect she had on the entire school community. They all were blessed to have her as a classmate or student.”