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9/14/2011 11:55:00 AM
Milwaukie - La Salle Prep
La Salle Prep photo
Amy Moore and Amber Chambers, watched over by St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle, will staff Signum Fidei program at La Salle Prep.
La Salle Prep photo
Amy Moore and Amber Chambers, watched over by St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle, will staff Signum Fidei program at La Salle Prep.

MILWAUKIE — La Salle freshman Michael O’Keefe loves baseball, basketball and golf. His favorite classes are U.S. History and choir. Until this fall, his desire to attend a Portland-area Catholic high school was simply a dream. Because of O’Keefe’s diagnosed learning difference, Catholic high schools and their rigorous college preparatory academics, were not a viable option for him. However, this September, Michael and six other freshmen with diagnosed learning needs are attending the new Signum Fidei ‘Signs of Faith’ Program at La Salle Catholic College Preparatory.

The idea of starting an intentional program for students with diagnosed learning needs, such as autism, communications disorders, learning disabilities, dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactive disorder came from a letter sent in 2008 to Denise Jones, president of La Salle Prep. The letter came from a mother, a Catholic educator who desired a Catholic high school experience for her son, whose child was denied acceptance to La Salle and every other Catholic high school in the Portland area because of his learning disability.

“She ended her letter with simple but poignant questions,” explained Jones. “‘Why are there no options for students with learning differences? Clearly they are valued children of God, and if we are a ministry of the Church, why do we exclude them from our own community?’ I still have the letter, and the truth is, I didn’t have a good answer, but I pledged that day that I would find one.”

At the start of the month, seven freshmen attended orientation and attended their first classes as part of the Signum Fidei Program. The goal of Signum Fidei is to provide a Catholic high school learning experience via targeted and intentional curriculum led by educators with special education degrees.
 
“It’s fundamentally Lasallian education; an inclusive educational community that commits to developing the full potential of all students,” said Jones.

The students in the Signum Fidei Program will be in class sizes of eight to 10 students for their core classes and will be fully integrated into the life of the school. During the summer, La Salle renovated the faculty lounge into a dedicated learning center for the students in  Signum Fidei.

The program is being launched by the newly-formed team of Amy Moore and Amber Chambers. Moore joins La Salle Prep from Oregon City High School, where she was a learning specialist for five years. Chambers graduated from Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa in June 2011 with a double-major in English and special education. She will teach English and religious studies for students in Signum Fidei.

“We are excited to join a school community that is choosing to live out its Lasallian values by developing the Signum Fidei Program," said Moore. "We aim to meet the social, academic, and spiritual needs of students who, in the past, have not had access to a Catholic high school education due to their learning differences. Our goal is to integrate the students into the community by celebrating our differences and sharing our unique talents.”



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