A way of life,
a world of difference.

Learn more about our history, mission,
and leadership below.

Mission

St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center educates and empowers individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to realize their full potential.

Vision

St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through nationally recognized innovative programs. We combine our culture of care and creativity within quality programs to provide liberal arts education, practical skills development, employment, and dignity for a lifetime.

Values

Integrity

Innovation

Quality

Sustainability

Respect

Kindness

Education

Creativity

Advocacy

Collaboration

OUR HISTORY

1966

In 1966, the Religious of the Society of the Sacred Heart created a program in El Cajon, California for preschool children with developmental disabilities. It began with one classroom and eight students. The first director of St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center (SMSC) was Sr. Mary Mardel, RSCJ who was followed by Sr. Sally Rude, RSCJ. In 1968, Sr. Maxine Kraemer, RSCJ, took on the role of director.

OUR HISTORY

1966

“We decided to start a preschool to prepare these children for public school. It started on nickels and dimes. The parents came on Saturdays to help. Then, we received our first gift of $25,000 to build the first small building. The building was completed in January 1966, and we celebrated the opening of St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center on May 25, 1966 – the Feast Day of St. Madeleine Sophie and the centenary of her death.” – Sr. Maxine Kraemer, RSCJ

OUR HISTORY

1972

SMSC Transitions to Serving Adults with Developmental Disabilities.

Recognizing that the needs of preschool-age children with developmental disabilities were going to be met by the public school system, SMSC determined in 1972 to change its focus and transition its services to meet the needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Sr. Maxine Kraemer was instrumental in orchestrating this transition to services for adults and educating the community about the fact that SMSC was no longer a preschool. Once the focus changed, parents were thrilled to learn that SMSC was available to serve their adult children.

OUR HISTORY

1972

Building the Programs

Once SMSC enrolled its first 12 adult students, Sr. Kraemer launched a four-pronged program that included:

Education – continuing math, reading, and basic education programs

Independent Living Skills

Pre-vocational training

Arts – dance, choral club, music appreciation, and visual arts

OUR HISTORY

1980s - Present

Over the years, SMSC continued to enhance and expand its programs and welcomed a growing number of adult students (also called consumers). Expanded opportunities were offered that helped these individuals live fuller lives, work at jobs they enjoyed (which also enabled them to earn needed income), and participate in activities of their choice. Sometimes for those who have a developmental disability, the simplest dream can become a great accomplishment; and sometimes these dreams are powerful statements of how much this incredible community of people not only wants to give, but also demonstrates how much they have to give from their hearts.

OUR HISTORY

Into the Greater Community

SMSC has always been there to help its students work through the daily challenges of finding fulfillment and happiness; and battle obstacles such as prejudice, discrimination, and society’s misconceptions. SMSC is also a leader in reaching out to the greater community and helping to educate the public about the realities of developmental disabilities which know no social boundaries and touch everyone – rich and poor, urban and rural, and every race and nationality. Because there is no cure for developmental disabilities – which include Down syndrome, autism, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy – the developmentally disabled require special supports through all stages of life, from infant to senior citizen.

OUR HISTORY

Into the Greater Community

At SMSC, quality is never sacrificed, and each student’s individual needs are met. With a low student-to-instructor ratio, SMSC has been very successful in attracting highly skilled employees. SMSC employs over 110 staff members and is served by more than 150 dedicated volunteers. And, because public transportation is inaccessible or inappropriate for use, SMSC has its own fleet of more than 30 paratransit vans and buses that transport students between home, campus, and work sites, five days a week.

OUR HISTORY

Activity Center, Adult Development Center, Behavior Modification, and Supported Employment

St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center’s programs provide work training and social experiences that encourage students to become well-rounded, contributing members of the greater community. SMSC is highly regarded in the business community. We take pride in getting to know the businesses to whom we provide services and set high standards of quality. Our programs receive the highest rating for services from the Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). SMSC is recognized for having many strengths, including:

Empowerment of students.

Innovative ideas designed to focus on strengths and abilities of students and staff members.

Excellent relations with community organizations. Creativity in designing services and programs.

Leadership and Board

St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center is led by a passionate team of board members and staff.

Board | Leadership

Community Volunteer

Susan Bobbitt-Voth

Community Volunteer

Stuart Karasik, PhD

Chief Executive Officer

Debra Emerson, MBA

Associate Professor

Sr. Mary Hotz

Community Volunteer

Ginger Owens

Partner

Richard Holstrom

CPA/ABV/CFF, CFE

Canonical Treasurer

Sr. Marina Hernandez

Support Services Supervisor

De Anna Dougherty

Partner/Attorney

Mary McLaughlin Davis

Community Volunteer

Robbin Kulek Lockie

Community Volunteer

Julie Karlo

Work With Us!

SMSC has occasional openings for staff positions within our organization. Contact us to learn more! Current opening can also be found here.

Awards

The following is a list of awards received by SMSC and Debra Emerson, Chief Executive Officer.

2001

Soroptimists

Debra Turner Emerson won Woman of Distinction Award

2001

City of Santee

Debra Turner Emerson won Woman of Distinction Award

2001

Dale Carnegie Outstanding Performer

Debra Turner Emerson won award

2005

San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce

Debra Turner Emerson won in Women in Leadership Award/Education Category

2005

Non-Profit Management Solutions

SMSC won Organizational Development Award

2005

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

SMSC’s Sophie’s Gallery received Honorable Mention for Most Innovative Product/Marketing category

2005

Magnolia Award for Arts & Business Partnership of the Year

SMSC’s Sophie’s Gallery won for partnership with Bread & Cie Gallery and Café

2006

San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce Women in Leadership Award

Debra Turner Emerson won in Art and Culture category

2006

United Way of San Diego County Zanville Award

SMSC’s Organic Garden won award

2007

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

Sophie’s Gallery won Outstanding Community Involvement Award/Small Business Award Category

2008

Oprah’s Big Give San Diego

SMSC won out of field of 80 San Diego County non-profits (received $10,000 matching award)

2008

San Diego Business Journal

Debra Turner Emerson won Women in Leadership Award

2008

San Diego Business Journal

Debra Turner Emerson named as a Finalist for CEO Award

2009

YWCA’s TWIN Award (Tribute to Women in Industry)

Debra Turner Emerson won award

2009

San Diego Visual Arts Network

Debra Turner Emerson won “Movers & Shakers: Who’s Who in the San Diego Visual Art World – 2009

2010

San Diego Magazine’s Woman of the Year Award

Debra Turner Emerson named as one of top 20 finalists.

2010

San Diego Union Tribune Reader’s Poll

Sophie’s Gallery named as “Best Local Gallery – To Buy

2011

San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce

Non-Profit of the Year Award – This was the first year for the award and SMSC was the inaugural recipient.

2013

The East County Californian

Best Non-Profit Organization

2014

The East County Californian

Silver Star for Best Non-Profit Organization & Garden/Nursery

2015

City of El Cajon

Citation Award for Community Partner

Our Innovative Programs

St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center provides programs to adults who have developmental disabilities, such as autism, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy. While there are no cures for developmental disabilities, people with these cognitive disorders can still achieve personal and professional fulfillment.

Learn More

Upcoming Events

Pickleball Tournament

April 19, 2024 09:00 AM

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