When Braintree’s Project Prove started in 1972, it was a small hope for the area’s developmentally disabled, a chance to let special-needs students into public high school for the chance to learn.
Now, Prove families, alumni, founders, and students are about to come together to celebrate the success of the program in the last four decades.
“A few years ago, we started to put on a reunion for the graduates close to my sister’s age, and we discovered that younger grads were coming, so we opened it up, did it at the school and it became an annual event,” said Dianne Glennon, whose mother helped found the program. “[Now] everyone has gotten on board to make this [reunion] a 40th anniversary celebration.”
The celebration will feature a reception and ceremony at Braintree Town Hall at 1 p.m. on Oct. 21, where anyone who has had a role or been a part of the school can celebrate.
To have the event be at Town Hall is very meaningful for the program, Glennon said, as Braintree has been a big supporter of the initiative.
“Braintree has been a community hat has welcomed this program and supported it for 40 years, and that contributed to its ongoing success,” Glennon said.
"Prove" used to stand for “Pre-Occupational, Vocational Education.” Today, however, it stands for “Providing Respect Opportunity Vision and Excellence”.
When the group was launched, students with special needs or developmental disabilities were not allowed to attend high school.
“It was before Chapter 75 and idea that mandated that people with disabilities had the right to an education. It was really a group…they were just a group of parents who had come from all different towns that needed help to what to do with their kids,” Glennon said. “Braintree was building a new high school and they wanted to make sure there was a place for their kids.”
The program provided an initiative that would provide measurable results for students who had been left out. Furthermore, the program was meant to be replicable in other schools, and was intended to give kids skills necessary to function in everyday life and in life after school.
In the fall of 1972, the program began with six students. With grant money, the school was even able to hire, for the first time, a director of special education for the entire school system, John Malloy.
The program grew from there, with parents moving to Braintree just to get their children into the school system, and more and more children coming on board.
Today, the program, which has paved the path for other disability programs in the state, has come a far way, Glennon said, including MCAS prep and new state learning standards for the 25 students currently enrolled.
The community, too, has stepped up.
“The community has responded by offering programs like a Challenger League Baseball team, and a golf program where they take lessons for free and have a tournament every year. And everyone has Best Buddies and Special Olympics,” Glennon said. “[The students] have internships at Town Hall, come into the State House.
"We’re used to seeing people who work at Stop & Shop, but this is one of the programs that kicked that off many years ago. We accept it today, but the reason why we accept it is in part because of this program and the vision people had who put it together and the people who maintained it over the years. It’s a better life than what anyone had to look forward to 40 years ago.”
Not only will the event help celebrate 40 years of success in the community, but retired assistant superintendent of Braintree Public Schools, Mike Molongoski, will receive the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities “Lifetime Hero” award in honor of his work as an educator who was instrumental in obtaining the Title III ESEA grant that launched Project Prove.
Molongoski also will serve as emcee for the event. Mayor Joseph Sullivan will be present, and organizers expect state Senator John F. Keenan and state Representative Mark Cusack to attend.
Although the event does cost some money, it is not a fund-raiser, Glennon said.
"It's to celebrate the anniversary. We just want people to enjoy themselves," she said.
Doors will open at 12:30 and tickets are $15 per person. For more information, call 781-331-3184 or e-mail email@example.com.