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Our mission at Mercy School For Special Learning is to provide all children and young adults with special needs the best opportunity
to reach their utmost potential — both academically and in life — which is an expression and extension of the Catholic Church’s mission to promote the Gospel and sanctity of human life. We promise to love, respect and treasure each unique individual; use academics,
activities and community engagement to build life skills and confidence; and provide a safe, nurturing and spiritual environment.
Mercy has a long and rich history!
In 1954, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Leo G. Fink, P.A., V.F., and Sacred Heart Parish in Allentown provided four rooms in the St. Martha House at 415 Pine St. for the Academy of Our Lady of Mercy. The new school gave the opportunity for 22 boys and girls who were mentally challenged to receive specialized education and training. The new students came from 15 different parishes. During the first year, the students received their First Holy communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation.
In the spring of 1961, Msgr. Fink petitioned for a new modern building for the children. Bishop Joseph McShea, Bishop of Allentown, asked for a tract of land on St. Paul’s Parish grounds for the new school. Groundbreaking took place on October 1, 1961, and classes began in the new school March 8, 1962. Full-day sessions were created to provide more opportunity for students to progress. The new building was constructed with funds from Catholic Charities Appeal at a cost of more than $100,000. At the same time, the name was shortened to Mercy Day School. A new wing was built and dedicated in 1973. Catholic Charities funded the school entirely, and there was no tuition.
In 1981, the Preschool Early Childhood Program from Allentown College relocated to Mercy Day School. Mercy Day School received accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in 1987, making it the first program for children who are mentally handicapped in Pennsylvania to receive this recognition. Shortly thereafter, its name changed to Mercy Special Learning Center to define more clearly the school’s mission of providing opportunities for children with special needs. A modular classroom was added to provide individual attention and special equipment needed by our students. Mercy also added a Work Experience vocational component to the educational program that permitted students to gain work skills at designated worksites throughout the community.
An 8,700 square-foot addition and renovations to the existing school began in 1994, yielding two new classrooms and a therapy room. Mercy staff members presented a colloquium on stress management to local educators as part of Mercy’s re-accreditation process for the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The Over 21 Program that provided a day setting for former Mercy students who are unable to work independently was established. Mercy integrated the early education program for students between the ages of 1-5. This school year also marked the beginning of our student Tone Chime Choir.
The implementation of an integrated Toddler/Childcare Program to complement our Mini Mustang Program occurred in 2001. This venture filled a need created by the dissolution of the same program previously run at Good Shepherd. The start of a summer camp opportunity for Mercy students between the ages of 6 and 11 was held two days per week during the month of July. Mercy received its first scholarship funds from the Eastern PA Scholarship Foundation.
By 2003, total enrollment at Mercy grew to 102 and our Over 21 Program received state licensing, having fulfilled 100 percent of the necessary requirements. That December marked the completion of a 2,200 square-foot addition to house the growing population in our Tender Loving Care (TLC) Over 21 Program for adults with disabilities. The addition was fully funded by a bequest from the Anthony Pinter Estate. Mercy dedicated our “Safe Surface” playground funded by and in memory of John Sipics, William Schnierlein, Ray Kaminski and Diane Zeppenfelt as well as in honor of Rosemary McFadden.
Mercy Metal Works, a program that involves students making jewelry out of scrapbook paper, washers and other materials, was created in 2013 by Donnalee Carroll and Betty Hader. The Rosemary McFadden J.O.Y. Fund is established by her family to honor Rosemary, a longtime Mercy volunteer. The fund provides for a special year-end field trip for all Mercy students. Work began on a major $750,000 renovation project to the original classroom wing. In 2014, Mercy welcomed two new Work Experience locations in ATAS International and Parkettes, bringing the number of worksite partners to 15.On September 1, 2015, we unveiled the new name of our school, Mercy School For Special Learning, and new logo at a media event held at Mercy.
From our humble beginnings to how it came to be in the building it exists in today. We’re always excited to see what each new year holds for our Mercy family!
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