At Holy Family Academy in Manassas, Virginia, students with Down syndrome are given a place to flourish. A small classical school, HFA provides an education for children with Down syndrome through its St. Anne program. The cohort of students comes to campus each Friday for classes in art, music, and academics, while completing their other work at home for the rest of the week. While on campus, they join the other HFA students for recess and lunch.
A Specialized and Integrated Approach
Because HFA’s Saint Anne program focuses solely on children with Down syndrome, they are able to get the tailored education and attention needed to succeed. Mo Woltering, the headmaster at HFA says:
Many special education programs tend to lump their students together, but there are many educational and emotional differences among various special needs children. A feature of our program is that the needs are similar, and so we are able to address them in a consistent manner.
Meanwhile, the Saint Anne program’s integrated approach enables students’ social development, as other Holy Family students act as “ambassadors” for the Saint Anne students during the integrated Friday recesses and lunches. Woltering relates that “friendships have quickly formed” and many students see it as the “highlight of their week.”
It’s always so much fun to see them on Fridays, they have such big smiles. On the friendship level and on a joy level, it’s been a big success.
Classical Education for Every Student
The school’s educational model is based on a classical approach, focused not just on academics, but on students’ spiritual and emotional formation. According to Woltering:
The program reflects our basic commitment to classical education: that it’s for everyone, and that it will feed the souls of students with Down syndrome, albeit in a different way.
Their cohort of students with Down syndrome bring unique contributions to this model, he says, and “show us a new type of connection with the classics, and with the true, the good and the beautiful.”
Woltering relates that ultimately, their goal is to honor the Catholic commitment to the dignity of all life, furthering human flourishing:
As a Catholic school, we are committed to promoting the dignity of life. Students see that children with Down syndrome are welcome at the Academy, and that the school has a commitment to education for these members of our family.
HFA is excited to see the program grow and succeed as they cultivate this inclusive learning environment.