One of the speakers at St. Viator Parish School’s graduation last month was eighth grader Matthew Houston. When he finished, there was barely a dry eye in the house.
In his short remarks, he described how shy and unsure he was when he transferred into the school in sixth grade. But over the last three years, he has gained confidence, lots of new friends and leadership skills. It was the second time Matthew addressed his classmates. Last year, he made a speech encouraging them to elect him class treasurer, and he won.
Matthew is a product of the school’s groundbreaking Micah 6: 8 Program. St. Viator continues to be the only Catholic school in the state of Nevada to be fully inclusive. Started nine years ago, the program currently supports children with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and epilepsy in its inclusive, Catholic environment.
School leaders named the program after a verse in the Book of Micah, in the Old Testament: “Act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God and each other.” That verse, taken from the 6th chapter, has become the school’s motto.
“Matthew has improved in every area,” says Mrs. Angela Sligar, a specialized instructor in the Micah Program. “He has attended every class with his classmates, including high school level algebra 1. He has improved his reading, as well as his physical strength.”
One of his goals at graduation was not only to deliver the speech, but to wheel himself down the aisle to the podium, which he did.
Matthew almost didn’t make it to St. Viator. He needed the support of a full-time aide, which the school could not provide. Enter Fr. Daniel Hall, CSV, Provincial and his Provincial Council, who agreed to pay his tuition for the next three years allowing him to follow his older siblings, and his mother in attending St. Viator.
This year, Matthew was one of six students in the Micah 6:8 Program. Next year, there will be a total of eight, Sligar says, with another seven on the waiting list. Making their specialized education possible are private donations, but they always welcome more. To donate, contact Mrs. Katie Kiss, Principal, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overall, the Micah Program and its students benefit the entire school community. Sligar says their peers are more kind, supportive, accepting and respectful. Hearts are changed forever, she says.