Thursday, September 26, 2013

Special needs students find hope at Shepherd's Field

Shepherd's Field Agricultural College, a pilot program of Ave Maria Preparatory School in Myakka City, is hosting an open house Oct. 7. PROVIDED PHOTOS
Students with special needs and their families are invited to attend next month's open house at Shepherd's Field Agricultural College, a pilot program of Ave Maria Preparatory School in Myakka City.

Shepherd’s Field provides a university-accredited, two-year college education and diploma in landscaping and horticulture through South Florida State College. There are currently 12 students, ages 18-22, in the program, which launched last month. Enrollment is open for the upcoming spring semester starting in January 2014. Scholarships are available for students needing transportation from Sarasota and Bradenton.

Ave Maria Prep already helps students in grades kindergarten through 12th who are dealing with autism, attention deficit disorder, Asperger's syndrome, Tourette syndrome, anxiety and bipolar disorders. Shepherd's Field will allow graduates of Ave Maria Prep and others to continue their education, gain employability and social skills and transition to college and independent living.

"They look so dignified," said Sister Gilchrist Cottrill, the school's director, of the program's first class. "Some of these kids I have known for a long time."

Ave Maria Prep was recently the beneficiary of a $25,000 donation by Paul and Frankie Amato, owners of Paul's Pizza by the Foot in Bradenton.

The Shepherd's Field open house will be Monday, Oct. 7, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the school's campus, 6289 Verna Rd., Myakka City. For more information about the open house or the program, call 941-322-1601.



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