var str = Madonna Learning Center Trainees Flourish at SAA-SDS|St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School

Madonna Learning Center Trainees Flourish at SAA-SDS

Madonna Learning Center Trainees Flourish at SAA-SDS

10 Nov, 2021

The St. Agnes-St. Dominic community has a long-standing relationship and commitment to service with Madonna Learning Center (MLC), located in Germantown, Tennessee. Originally called The Madonna Day School, MLC was founded in 1969 by three Benedictine Sisters. The MLC mission is to provide a nurturing faith-based educational and social environment that empowers children and young adults with special needs to reach their full potential while offering support to their families.

Madonna Learning Center serves students between the ages of 4-19. After graduating from the school age program, young adults become trainees in the Monarch Day Program which gives them the opportunity to participate in three different levels of study focusing on daily living skills, social skills, and job preparation. The goal of the Monarch Program is to help young adults gain useful, real-life job experiences and become more independent so that they may excel in today’s world.

Several years ago, MLC Executive Director Jo Harmeier Gilbert (SAA‘78) approached St. Agnes-St. Dominic about hiring an MLC trainee to work at the school. “Mr. Hood and the staff of St Agnes and St. Dominic took a leap of faith in allowing our adults to train at the school and become employed. We are grateful for their belief in our students and the potential that our students bring to the program,” said Mrs. Gilbert.

Elisabeth Ann Neel was the first trainee to join our community from the Monarch Program.  She has now been with us for five years. According to Mrs. Gilbert, “This has been such a wonderful experience for her. She tells everyone she loves her job!”

Elisabeth Ann works closely with Elizabeth Bennett, our Campus Coordinator, to meet the needs of various departments at the school. According to Ms. Bennett, “Elisabeth Ann is crazy-good at what she does! She approaches each project with enthusiasm and willingness. The work she does at SAA-SDS is extremely valuable to the faculty/staff because it allows them more time to focus on lesson plans, grading, preparing their classrooms and the multitudes of other things teachers are tasked with on a daily basis.”

Recently, our community was blessed to have a second MLC trainee, Katie Olsen, join us to help in Mrs. Kathi Davidson’s PK class twice a week. Katie is training to become a teaching assistant in a preschool setting once she graduates from the Monarch program. Mrs. Davidson shared, “Katie always comes in with a smile and the kids just love her! She is willing to do anything to help and particularly enjoys getting the kids’ morning snacks ready for them each day.”

Reflecting on the partnership with our school, Mrs. Gilbert told us: “As a graduate of St Agnes, it warms my heart to see my alma mater embrace the differences in others and look for opportunities to expand the horizons for all students.Working gives our young adults a feeling of purpose and importance in their lives, a sense of community and belonging. No matter the task, they feel they are making a difference.”

In addition to the school’s support of the Monarch Program, our Junior High and Upper School students have volunteered their time and resources to MLC for almost 18 years, helping with dances, after school and summer programs and other projects at the school. The Upper School students have now formed a club, Forever Friends, that is solely dedicated to maintaining service to the students of Madonna Learning Center.  

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