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Special Needs Youth

'No Limits, Just Possibilities'

“No limits, just possibilities,” is a guiding principle worthy of embracing, whatever one’s abilities. Or disabilities, as Notre Dame School in Dallas has been ably demonstrating for more than 50 years.

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The phrase, in fact, is the school’s motto, which correlates neatly with its mission statement: “Notre Dame School educates students with developmental disabilities and facilitates their integration into society.”

The Catholic school was founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1963 and is the only such independent school in North Texas.

“It’s the most incredible place for these kids and their families,” Kay Barry, development director for the school, said. Berry’s own daughter attended the school for many years. “The amount of support here, the supportive atmosphere and compassionate atmosphere, is outstanding.”

The school currently has 157 students, ranging in age from eight to 23, from 78 different zip codes. Among them is Ellie Spieth, the youngest of Chris and Shawn Spieth’s three children.

“Ellie has had an amazing experience at NDS,” Chris said. “She absolutely loves it. Two years ago, we started looking at high school programs that provided a vocational education as well as academic. And NDS provides both.

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“They still teach the academics, but the emphasis is on life skills and job training to give their students the best possible education for their needs going forward. I have found that structure and social activities are so important. Not all activities are for every special need child. It is sometimes a hit or miss. But if they love it, you stick to it. It’s amazing to see them find an activity that is a true fit, and thrive in it.”

The Jordan Spieth Family Foundation has chosen to support Notre Dame School in keeping within the pillars of the foundation’s focus — one of which being special needs youth.

“The Jordan Spieth Family Foundation gift is going to help provide scholarships for our neediest families,” Barry said, “Because o fit, we can now help kids who could not possibly come here without financial aid.”

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The tuition at the Notre Dame School is $17,400 a year, though 50 percent of it is subsidized for every student via fundraisers and donations. The school has an annual budget of $2.8 million and thus is required to raise $1.4 million.

“We don’t really serve an affluent parent community,” Berry said. “Most of our families are from middle to lower income brackets.”

The student to staff ratio is five to one, “which is essential in educating students with intellectual disabilities,” the school’s website notes.

In addition to academics, the school offers athletics (volleyball, flag football, basketball, soccer, cheerleading, track and field and bowling), has Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops, a choir, a bell choir and school dances, among activities.

It is all infused with caring and compassion, and with another of its guiding principles: Learning with love.

Barry said, “It’s a place that’s full of joy, both the students and teachers. It’s a very happy and joy-filled place.”