Unique Jacksonville, FL School Celebrates First-Ever High School Graduation

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While high school graduates start to walk across stages all over the country, a small group of just three local graduates will mark a true milestone. On Thurs., May 23, 2019, Morning Star School in Jacksonville, Florida, the entire community of parents, staff and students will be cheering for the first-ever high school graduating class. Morning Star School’s sole focus is serving children with learning differences.

Ricardo, Madison and Anthony of Morning Star School

“Thanks to generous donations from the community, we’ve raised almost $1.3 million dollars – just enough to build and open our high school in 2017. Just two years later, we have our first graduating class.” said Jean Barnes, principal of Morning Star School.

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On Thurs., May 23, 2019, Morning Star School in Jacksonville, Florida, the entire community of parents, staff and students will be cheering for the school’s first-ever high school graduating class.

“We’ve been serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade for over 60 years,” said Jean Barnes, principal of Morning Star School, which serves children with a wide range of learning differences. “Thanks to generous donations from the community, we’ve raised almost $1.3 million dollars – just enough to build and open our high school in 2017. Just two years later, we have our first graduating class.”

Morning Star School’s high school for children with learning challenges is an important resource for the northeast Florida community. More than 150 students with diverse backgrounds from Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Nassau, and Flagler counties attend the school every year, but completing eighth grade was often a stressful time for parents and students because of the few high school special education programs available in Jacksonville, and none with the capability to match students’ emotional and social needs like Morning Star School. To fill this void, Morning Star School launched its first capital campaign in 2016. The $1.6 million “Building A Brighter Future” campaign had a goal - to begin construction on a new building to accommodate students in grades nine through 12.

Meet Morning Star School’s First Ever High School Graduates

Morning Star School could not be more proud of its inaugural class of graduates and their families.

  • Ricardo is on the Autism Spectrum (ASD). When he arrived at Morning Star School he lacked expressive language skills. Through classroom help and speech and language therapy, Ricardo has acquired expressive communication skills and recently entered the local Florida High School High Tech Jeannie Amendola Speech & Research Competition. He began attending Morning Star School in the fourth grade, and left to attend a private high school after eight grade. As soon as the high school was completed, Ricardo returned. His favorite memory is a trip to Washington, D.C., and he has big plans after graduation. “I want to attend the University of North Florida,” he said. “I am going to be a teacher.”
  • Madison came to Morning Star School with Specific Learning Disability (ALD). This made it difficult for Madison to keep up in a larger class setting. The teachers at Morning Star School were able to provide her with more individualized attention. This small change made a huge difference for Madison. She is now a happy, thriving and successful student. “I am so thankful to have the opportunity that so many kids didn’t get,” she said. “The teachers have made this school great and are welcoming to everyone, and treat you like this is your home.”
  • Anthony came to Morning Star School with significant processing differences particularly in processing speed and cognitive efficiency. He is a gifted artist, a competitive runner, and enjoys fossil hunting. Anthony said that he felt overwhelmed at other schools, but not at Morning Star School. He is gratified to have made the honor roll for the first time, and admires his fellow graduates. “I am proud to join Madison and Ricardo as the class of 2019, the first high school graduates of Morning Star School!” he said. By placing Anthony in a more appropriately paced educational environment he has succeeded in school. The small classes that are available to learn at his pace gave Anthony the chance to achieve and feel good about himself.

Partnership, Mentoring & Graduation with Bishop Snyder High School

Morning Star School’s high school partners with Bishop Snyder High School (BSHS) so all students have a true high school experience. Bishop Snyder High School hosts the Morning Star high school students at their school masses and retreats, as well as sporting events, dances and fine arts showcases. Many BSHS students serve as mentors to the Morning Star School students and help them feel welcome and accepted as part of a larger high school community.

The Morning Star School’s high school students will graduate along side their mentors on Thurs., May 23 at 7p.m. at Thrasher-Horne Center, St. Johns River Community College, 283 College Drive, Orange Park, FL. More information on Morning Star School can be found at http://www.morningstar-jax.org.

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About Morning Star School, Jacksonville

Morning Star School in Jacksonville, Florida (http://www.morningstar-jax.org) is a K-12 school serving children with learning differences, attention deficit disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and mild intellectual disabilities. Fully accredited by the Florida Catholic Conference, Morning Star School is the only special education school in the Diocese of St. Augustine and takes pride in its diverse students who are welcomed regardless of background or religious affiliation. Teachers and staff work with each individual student and partner with parents, therapists and medical providers to provide each child the opportunity to reach their highest potential. Morning Star School is perpetually at capacity and is raising funds to expand the school and its services.

More about the donors of Morning Star School’s high school    

Thanks to the generosity of donors, the new high school building was completed in just a year. A Circle of Friends initiative chaired by well-known local philanthropists Robert (Bob) Shircliff, Jay Demetree and Lou Walsh helped secure the initial major donors for the project. It includes four middle-school classrooms, four high-school classrooms, a state-of-the-art media and learning center, and a beautiful outdoor classroom. The total high school project cost is $1.6 million. Currently at $1.3 million, Morning Star School continues campaign efforts to raise the additional $300,000 needed to pay off the new high school.

Morning Star School
725 Mickler Road
Jacksonville, FL 32211
904-721-2144
https://morningstar-jax.org

Media Contact:
Beth Strautz
(773) 895-5387
beth@vaguspr.com

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