Students with Special Needs Shine at Morning Star Catholic School

Written by Brittany Heidemann of The Catholic Foundation of Central Florida  

On the afternoon of April 24, Bishop John Noonan and 16 guests were given a tour of Morning Star Catholic School located in the College Park area of Orlando. In the words of Selby Prince, a parishioner of Annunciation Catholic Church, Morning Star is a “beautiful little place.”

With a total of 4 classrooms and 50 students, this school is in fact a “little” place but in so many ways, a beautiful place. Situated on a small property next to Bishop Moore Catholic High School, Morning Star School is surrounded by trees and shaded greenery that provide a scenic environment for students to learn, grow and socialize throughout the day.

As guests arrived for the tour, elementary school students were seen in their organic vegetable and herb garden giggling and laughing as they learned to pick the vegetables they had planted months before. The students radiated pure joy as they proudly showed off their prized picks.

Made possible by a grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation and with assistance from My Yard Farm, students are learning about healthy eating in a very hands on way as they plant, harvest, and eat the food they are helping to grow themselves. Since the garden’s beginning in February, students have already taken home a crop of kohlrabi with a suggested recipe card. They are also growing collard greens, kale, cabbage, herbs, and Swiss chard.

The next stop on the tour was the elementary classroom. Guests watched as students practiced spelling words using a smart board (pictured above). The guests also visited the middle school classroom where students were practicing subtraction, and then onto the high school classroom where students enjoyed an afternoon session of music therapy. The last stop on the tour was a visit with students that are currently in the transitional program. The students in the transitional program are between the ages of 22-30 and are transitioning from Morning Star School to semi-independent living. Morning Star School assists students to find employment and teaches them real life skills for an independent life. The guests witnessed a fun lesson on money, including one student counting the change in Bishop Noonan’s pocket!

In the words of one of the guests, Michael Kakos, parishioner of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, “I was enlightened by how a school could do so much!”

Morning Star School is an educational ministry for children with disabilities emphasizing the grace of our loving God as each child learns to be in relationship with God and each other while he or she grows toward full participation in society. Formed in 1960 with six students in a small home on Leigh Avenue, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, a religious order from St. Augustine, Florida, knew that skill, patience, and love would develop the special gifts of children who are diagnosed with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and other diagnoses.

For more information and ways to give financial support to Morning Star School and other ministries of the Diocese of Orlando through Our Catholic Appeal, please visit

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