St. Coletta Day School Makes Milwaukee Great
MILWAUKEE -- Special need students in Milwaukee have a chance at a different type of education thanks to St. Colette Day School.
Housed in St. Sebastian's, the school for elementary to high school students, integrates the students, with everything from autism to Down syndrome, during special activities like gym class but separates them into their own classroom for other instruction.
"We're doing it in an atmosphere of respect for the students," said Bill Koehn, administrator and one of three teachers.
There are 20 students enrolled in the program and though it's grown from the just seven students when he began in 1991, Koehn says the class size won't ever get too big.
"What makes this program work is our ability to keep our class sizes small, to keep it intimate so that we know our students intimately and their families and how everyone interacts," said Koehn.
Nancy Heltemes started her 13-year-old daughter, Savannah, at St. Coletta's this year and she says she loves it.
"We're really pleased with the program she's in," said Heltemes. "We've seen a lot of growth in her, both academically and socially since she started."
Savannah has Down syndrome but she doesn't let her challenges get in the way of a good education. She's enthused about art and says some day she'd like to be a fashion designer.
She and the other students painted 80 pictures to be auctioned off during ColletaScope, the non-profit's biggest fundraiser of the year. Guests can bid on the children's paintings on Saturday, October 8 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Milwaukee Youth Art Center and the proceeds go back to the school to make it affordable for parents. Donations are accepted at the door.
"There's so much comradery among the families, among the teachers and students," said Heltemes, who helps volunteer for a number of things associated with the school.
But it's not just the parents volunteering, the students are too. Koehn says they have two service projects a year.
"Even though our kids have challenges of their own, we like to instill upon them the fact that they can help out as well," said Koehn.
"St. Coletta's is making Milwaukee great by developing these young minds into young people to be active in the community when they are adults," said Heltemes.
Koehn says his experience has been incredible at St. Coletta's and he's proud to be an educator and associated with the school.
"It really has indicated to me that this is much more than a career, it's a calling," said Koehn.
St. Coletta's is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. For more information, log onto www.scdsmke.org