The St. Gabriel System, a division of archdiocesan Catholic Social Services, has been around for a very long time, starting as the Catholic Protectory for Boys (now St. Gabriel’s Hall, Audubon) founded in 1898 as a residential facility to give discipline and industrial training to neglected youth.
Today, the mission of serving court-adjudicated youth has not changed terribly, although it is now multi-faceted with both residential and day programs, with an emphasis on treatment rather than punishment by confinement.
Part of its continued success is the constant updating of facilities and programs to keep in tune with the times. To assist with this effort three St. Gabriel units recently received grants totaling more than $62,000 for program and campus upgrades.
St. Gabriel’s Hall, the core residential program, received $18,385 which will be used primarily to buy additional equipment for the school’s culinary arts program, according to Colleen O’Toole, Career Technical Education supervisor.
“Some of the money will also go towards smart board technology,” she said, adding the grant “will enhance our educators’ ability to support our special education programs.
“Some of our teachers will be using that as well because it is all about skills development for employment, for the students learning about their own skills and aptitudes, exploring various skills for job acquisition and retention. It’s about learning to get along with other people, interviewing people (and) managing conflict,” O’Toole said.
There are actually four technical education programs: culinary arts; landscape horticulture; building maintenance and construction; and Microsoft Office specialist.
Another on-campus program, the Mitchell program, received a $24,012 grant to assist with updates for the former barn which is now a workshop. The funds will be used toward updating equipment, new windows, heaters and siding to make the building more comfortable in winter.
What is interesting is the students themselves, who are in a program to repair the property of crime victims, will themselves be working and learning on the barn repair project.
“They will be using the same equipment that they will use in the crime repair program,” O’Toole said. “This is money for improving programs for kids that need it.”
The third grant, $19,837, was awards to St. Gabriel’s De La Salle Vocational, a day program located in Bensalem. De La Salle Vocational serves about 300 young men a year in academics as well as culinary arts, auto mechanics and carpentry, and has an excellent record for job placement of its graduates.
“Our goal is to see the kids complete their high school education; some come needing two credits and some come needing two years,” said Charles (Skip) Gaus, the director of De La Salle. “Our focus is not just education, it is treatment.”
Through the grant, the school’s classrooms will be equipped with smart televisions, Wi-Fi accessibility, Surface Pro Pads as well as other resources to serve students with special needs.
“Kids will be able to access instructions over the Internet,” Gaus explained.