To celebrate Disability Awareness Month, the Joseph Maley Foundation would like to highlight just a portion of the impact that our disABILITY Awareness Program is making on the youth of central Indiana. For this first blog of the month, we interviewed Eric Schommer, principal at St. Monica Catholic School. Since its inception the disABILITY Awareness Program has been a yearly staple at St. Monica. Keep reading to learn more about this decades long impact.

The Joseph Maley Foundation’s disABILITY Awareness Program first began at St. Monica’s over twenty years ago. Do you see a lasting effect in your student and staff community due to this programming?

Our school has undergone massive redesigns over the past six years. Throughout all of the changes, our focus on awareness of abilities, how to treat all people, and expectations of our staff and students have intensified. We continue to see the prevalent need for inclusivity. The mission of the Joseph Maley Foundation continues to support our mission as well as those of Catholic Social Teachings.

Personally, in your years at St. Monica, what has been your favorite experience with the Joseph Maley Foundation?

Personally, the student conversations that take place months after disABILITY Awareness week are the most rewarding. To witness the effects on students long term is remarkable.

Why do you think disability awareness education is important for students?

I believe that disability awareness education is important because a lack of knowledge creates a lack of understanding. Understanding enables us as a school to unite all students.

The Joseph Maley Foundation’s disABILITY Awareness program strives to foster empathy, kindness, and respect for all people. This is done through speakers, engaging activities, and curriculum that aligns with Indiana Department of Education standards and national standards. Of all these aspects of the program, is there one in particular that is personally your favorite? Why?

I believe that the engaging activities make a lasting direct impact on the learning of all. Without the speakers and curriculum aligned to the IDOE standards, it would not be a well-rounded program. All pieces are necessary to impact the students and staff.

If you could describe the disABILITY Awareness program in one word, what would it be?


Finally, what is your personal “Why JMF”?

Other than JMF, who else would fill the need to educate all with passion, diverse creativity, and a history of success while always learning and adapting?