A doctoral candidate at Pace University in New York, Seton Keough alumna Kelsey Lisle SK’07 credits much of her academic success in high school and college to the unique learning environment provided through Seton Keough’s Marillac Program.
The Marillac Program dates back to Seton High School, one of Seton Keough’s founding schools. Named after St. Louisa de Marillac, D.C., a founder of the Daughters of Charity with St. Vincent DePaul, the program provides an inclusion model for college-bound students with learning differences.
Kelsey was drawn to Seton Keough because of the special services available. At the time Kelsey entered high school in 2003, Seton Keough was one of only a few schools to offer services for students with learning needs and the only Catholic girls school in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to offer such a program.
Raised in Howard County, Md., she attended the Friendship School for K through grade 8, which specialized in teaching students with learning needs such as Dyslexia. “My sister attended Seton Keough, however, I was particularly interested in Seton Keough because of the Marillac Program. I knew that the transition from a very small middle school to high school would be challenging, which is why the Marillac Program was particularly alluring to me.”
At Seton Keough she excelled in every area of the school. She achieved academic success, made lasting friends, became a leader, and played a “little” volleyball. Kelsey began playing volleyball in eighth grade and took to it quickly. At Seton Keough her volleyball success is legendary…she is one of the most renowned volleyball players to play in the Seton Keough gym.
Kelsey was named the Baltimore Sun’s All-City Player of the Year during her junior and senior year. According to the Sun: “During her senior year she easily handled more balls than any player in the metro area and more than doubled her kills, going from 321 in 62 games (5.2) to 659 in 84 games. Her 7.9 kills per game on a hitting percentage of .569 led the metro area. As a sophomore she recorded over 1,200 kills.”
After graduation from Seton Keough, Kelsey attended Bucknell University for her undergraduate studies graduating Magna Cum Laude, named to the Dean’s List, and a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society. She is a Doctoral Candidate in School and Clinical Psychology at Pace University, expected in 2016.
Kelsey says the Marillac Program and most especially the individual attention she received from her teachers while a student made the difference in her high school experience, “Ronnie Fallon and Sarah Richardson are the reason why I am where I am today. I could not have been as successful with the lessons they taught me throughout my time at Seton Keough.”
In the 1990s, Seton Keough was one of the few schools in the area to have a program for students with learning needs, but in the early 2000s the school revamped its program to what is currently offered: an inclusion model where students are mainstreamed throughout all academic departments. The Marillac Program director and faculty partner with all members of the faculty to advocate for each student’s individual needs.
“The first year, they taught us study and organization skills. After the first year, the Marillac room was a resource room where I could go for help, to use the computers, or to seek guidance from the staff. Throughout my four years in the program, the teachers taught me how to advocate for myself and seek accommodations in an appropriate way. This was an invaluable skill that aided in my college success. It was also just a warm, friendly place where you could always go for support.”
Her own experiences drew her to the field of School and Clinical Psychology. “I was drawn to the field because I am passionate about working with children who are diagnosed with learning disabilities and their families. I am working at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in their children and adolescent psychiatry outpatient unit.”
Seton Keough provides multiple pathways for student success in high school and beyond. The Marillac program is one of the school’s cornerstone programs that fulfills its mission of providing an excellent educational experience while welcoming a diversity of culture, faith, and ability.
Sarah Tillman SK’12
Our daughter, Sarah, is a 2012 alumna of Seton Keough High School and the Marillac program. We wanted to let you know what a difference SKHS made in Sarah’s life, and how important the Marillac program was in providing her with a very positive educational experience in high school, and in preparing her for college. So this is kind of a “what happened after she left” story.
Despite piles of documentation, the public schools would not provide Sarah with the necessary accommodations in middle school to enable her to access the challenging course work she was capable of completing. She clearly had the brain power to be taking the GT and Honors level courses, but needed some accommodations for her learning differences and physical challenges. She chose SKHS for high school because of the Marillac program and its focus on serving college-bound students with learning differences, providing them access to the college prep coursework they would need to succeed in college, and preparing them to be ready to self-advocate in a college environment. The quiet testing room, additional time for tests, arranging appropriate accommodations for the SAT exam, preferential seating, use of laptop for taking notes in class, use of Kurzweil when needed, and the cooperation of the classroom teachers made a huge difference in her educational experience in high school versus middle school. She ended middle school beaten down and frustrated by the people who should have been fighting for her, not against her; she left Seton Keough a confident, successful young woman who had taken on a mentoring role for the younger Marillac students, and was ready to take on college.
Sarah didn’t just “make it through high school”, she graduated with honors, 5th in her class; was a Maryland Distinguished Scholar, and a National Merit Commended Student; received the John Philips Sousa Award for Instrumental Music, and was recognized by her teachers for her classroom abilities with the Gerald A. Heidrick, Jr. Memorial Award for Critical Thinking. Seton Keough and the Marillac program allowed her to live up to her God-given potential.
Now a student at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she was awarded a four-year academic scholarship, Sarah is on the Dean’s List. And with the documentation that was put together during high school, the college is ready, able and willing to provide her with the necessary accommodations she needs, including a quiet testing room, extended time on tests, forgoing use of “bubble sheets” for answers, and copies of teachers’ notes. Accommodations are provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act – reasonable accommodations that make advanced education available to her are provided at no cost to her, and all professors understand their obligation to do so.
Sarah would want you to know that, some teacher protestations to the contrary, Marillac does not “coddle” the students or send them out “unprepared for the reality of college and/or work.” Marillac provides students with accommodations to which they are legally entitled, accommodations that allow them to reach their God-given potential, to emphasize their strengths rather than their weaknesses. They learn to ask for what they need to be successful, and they understand that access to those helps is their legal right, and that those appropriate accommodations will be there for them in college and on the job if they ask for it and provide substantive documentation supporting their request.
We think Sarah is a SKHS and Marillac success story. And we wanted to be sure you were aware of her story, and aware of how grateful we are to SKHS and the Marillac program for positioning our daughter to be successful in her college career, and helping prepare her for whatever comes after. We know that she would not be where she is today had she not attended Seton Keough High School.
Paul and Janet Tillman
Proud parents of Sarah Tillman ‘12
“The Marillac Program at Seton Keough High School has given me more than
I could ever have imagined. It is what secured me in going into the
special education field. At times the teachers in Marillac have been my
saving grace. My high school experience would have been completely
different. They gave me the courage to go out and do things I never
thought possible. There is no way I could ever thank them enough for
their guidance and support.”
“My daughter entered Seton Keough as a freshman, having attended a
school for students with learning differences. We were all very nervous
about her ability to adapt to a more mainstream classroom, but found
the Seton Keough’s Marillac Program a perfect fit for her needs. The
first year had some challenges as she was faced with more
responsibility. The Marillac Program promotes self-advocacy for
students, and our daughter learned to take responsibility for her work
and mistakes. We found the staff to be fair and understanding, and
eventually her confidence in her own abilities blossomed. She still
struggles with organization and forgetfulness, but has learned valuable
techniques for managing these differences. She was also able to
participate in many school activities, such as band and hand bell
choir—and loved all of it. She established friendships at Seton Keough
in and outside of the Marillac Program, and as parents this has been as
valuable as the educational component, to see your child confident
enough to make the “differences” only a small part of who she is. Our
daughter is attending a four-year college and living on campus. She
will continue to need support services, but because of her experience
with the Marillac Program at Seton Keough she has the skills and
confidence to succeed.”