Diocesan News

Special Needs Program Celebrates Graduation

Students, parents and teachers were filled with joy as 10 students graduated from Catherine Laboure Special Education Program at a graduation ceremony June 18 at St. Frances Cabrini Church, Bensonhurst.

Principal Mary Nafash shared the teachers’ smiles as she talked about the students, whom she described as motivated, kind and hardworking.

“Laboure is just another name for extended family,” she said after recounting the students’ growth and many accomplishments.

The students then received their diplomas from the principal and Father Guy Sbordone, pastor. Following an award ceremony, they gave white roses to their families and thanked their parents and teachers.

As teachers said goodbye to the class of 2015, they were preparing for a change of location next fall.


This year marks 50 years of continuous service by the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens to students with special educational needs.

The program began in 1965 by the Sisters of St. Joseph with seven students attending two classes at St. Joseph Church on Pacific Street, Prospect Heights. It continues today at St. Frances Cabrini, and will be relocated to Our Lady of Miracles, Canarsie, in the fall.

The Catherine Laboure Special Education Program is a New York state‐approved academic program for students with learning disabilities, speech impairments and developmental disabilities, currently serving intermediate, junior and high school students.

In 1989, on occasion of its 25th anniversary, Sister Patricia Lynch, C.S.J., then-director, wrote, “Our Special Education Program offers an exemplary academic and vocational program enhanced by the support services of speech and language, counseling, independence/travel training and vocational training.

“A student moves through an individually tailored program to become as independent as possible and a contributive member of our society and work force. Perhaps the greatest testimony to the worth of the program is the 75 percent success rate in placing graduates in full time competitive employment.”

On its 30th anniversary, the Office of Catholic Education announced that the program would be renamed the St. Catherine Laboure Special Education Program. It is registered with the NYS Department of Education as a non-public school offering special education services to speech impaired, learning disabled and intellectually deficient students.

Under the Part 200 regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education, private schools and special-act school districts are eligible for approval by the commissioner to receive public funds for the education of students with disabilities, provided such schools meet the criteria established by the state.

Safe, Cooperative Environment

Catherine Laboure is the only such school remaining with a Catholic presence in Brooklyn and Queens. Students, parents and staff are all key partners in the effort to create and maintain a safe and cooperative learning environment. The special education opportunities available in the Laboure Program are designed to provide the best possible educational services to children with learning disabilities who possess a valid Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Approximately one out of every five students in NYC schools currently has an IEP. In 2009, 16.9 percent of students enrolled in NYC schools had an IEP. In 2014 that percentage was at 19.2. Most of the students with IEPs, approximately four out of five, are classified as having either a speech impairment or a learning disability (79.8 percent).

A smaller number of students with special needs are classified with autism, emotional disabilities, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, other health impairment, speech impairment, learning disability and other less commonly occurring disabilities.

The mission of the Laboure Program is to improve the lives of as many students as possible, by providing all of the academic resources necessary for them to develop to their highest potential.

Catherine Laboure Class of 2015 Graduation Photo


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