Despite Obstacles, Campus School Fights for Special Needs Education

Outside of Campion Hall, school buses arrive to drop off students at the Campus School, a private, publically funded, special education school at Boston College. As a part of the Lynch School of Education, the Campus School serves special-needs students from ages 3 to 21. Many of these students have multiple and severe disabilities and need services that the schools in their respective districts can’t provide. In addition to education, the Campus School provides therapy and health care services for its students.

The school opened in 1970 with a mission: to provide education, therapy, and health care services to improve the quality of its students lives.

“Our mission is to work through the expertise of our trans-disciplinary team in providing education, therapy, and health care services to improve the quality of lives for our students and to ensure all of our students lead active and meaningful lives,” said Don Ricciato, director of the Campus School.

Ricciato became involved with the Campus School during his years as a graduate student at BC.

“I found it to be such a remarkable place that I have thrown all of my professional life working for the Campus School,” Ricciato said.

Students at the Campus School are grouped by age and work with staff of special- education teachers and licensed therapists. In addition to the special-education teachers, many graduate students studying in the special -needs program of the Lynch School work as teaching assistants.

One of the main struggles of running a special-education school is the financing and having adequate resources to pay salaries, provide instructional materials, and keep up with operational costs. A few years ago, the Campus School saw enrollment numbers decline and ran into financial struggles that jeopardized its future. In response to the University’s decision to relocate the school, parents worked to keep the Campus School in Campion. In the greater Boston area there are many private special-education schools, and the Campus School was competing for enrollment.

In order to combat the declining numbers, the Campus School increased its outreach to get its name out to hospitals, schools, and parent organizations. It also increased its presence on social media and added admissions and outreach coordinators positions to raise awareness and help increase the enrollment. The goal was to promote the Campus School to anyone who could potentially refer students. For years, the Campus School relied on its reputation, but since 2014, there has been an increase in advertising and outreach.

In addition to increased outreach, the school has also increased its fundraising. The Campus School now works closely with the Advancement Office at BC and hosts fundraising events to encourage donations. The Campus School Volunteers play a very significant role in the fundraising. Every year, the Campus School Volunteers raise over $100,000 for the school.

Campus School Entrance

The Campus School Volunteers, or CSVBC, is a club that allows students to get involved with the Campus School, whether that be through planning events or becoming a buddy. Annually, the CSVBC has about 350 members. Through CSVBC, students can be a part of the buddy program, which pairs a BC student with a Campus School student. These relationships are meant to be friendships that last throughout the four years the BC student is an undergraduate. Students can also apply to be on one of eight different committees of the CSVBC. The three types of committees include the direct service, fundraising, and awareness committees.

There are four fundraising committees, A Cappella, Broom Hockey, Golf, and Racing, that put on events throughout the year to raise money for the Campus School. One of the main events is the Newton Chilly Half Marathon, which will take place on Nov. 13. Formerly, fundraisers ran as “bandit runners” in the Boston Marathon, but since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, increased security has made that impossible. The half marathon campaign, which happened for the first time last year, is an attempt to make up for the money lost without the Boston Marathon fundraiser.

“We also have opportunities for general membership,” said Gina Iozzo, co-president of CSVBC and MCAS ’17. “We keep people on our listserv so that they get all the dates and times for all of these events.”

General membership is a way for students to volunteer on their own time. In addition to the Campus School Volunteers, PULSE students volunteer, and students with work study can work at the Campus School.

One of the important aspects of the Campus School is its location on BC’s campus. The Campus School is able to use BC’s resources and facilities, like the Plex. BC has also provided two wheelchair vans to take the students on off-campus excursions. There is also a sense of community that forms from being on a college campus. Students at the Campus School form friendships with BC students and get the opportunity to have experiences that are difficult to recreate off campus.

“The cool thing about the fundraising events is that [Campus School] students will show up to these events with their families” said Katie Hendrickson, chief education officer and LSOE ’19. “Last year we had a few kids come to cheer on people running in the half marathon. It’s really fun to have that [community] aspect.”

The sense of community that comes from the university setting is what makes the Campus School unique from other special education programs and draws many BC students to volunteer at the Campus School.

“For our students and their families, the Campus School is more than just a school experience,” Ricciato said. “It really changes the quality of life they are able to have by being part of the University community.”

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

Maddie Phelps

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