St. Madeleine’s Organic Garden on KPBS TV

Follow the link below to view our students and staff in the garden featured for the KPBS television episode, “A Growing Passion; Growing Dreams and Memories”

Aired: 2/27/2014

“Gardens beautify, they feed, they serve as habitat for animals, and they do more.  Some gardens become places that heal bodies and souls or inspire new beginnings.  Such is the case with the locations we visit in this episode.” -KPBS

St. Madeleine’s portion starts at 17:45…

“Honoring the past . . . funding the future”

Honoring the past . . .  funding the future . . .

For Anne Thunder, St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center is a home away from home. Having attended nearly all of her adult life and part of her childhood, the Center has been a kindred place for Anne and her mother, Mrs. Genevieve Thunder, who helped launch St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center.

The 11th of 14 children of Joseph and Genevieve Thunder, Anne was born with Down syndrome. Anne’s older sisters had attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart where Mrs. Thunder met Rev. Mother Mary Mardel. Because of this connection, Mrs. Thunder and other mothers of children with special needs joined Rev. Mother Mary Mardel in creating a new school to prepare special needs children called St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center School for Exceptional Children. The new school was opened by the Religious of the Sacred Heart in January 1966, where Anne was one of the first few students.

Anne Prom Queen_smIn 1975, a new federal law (the Lanterman Act) mandated that the public school system assume responsibility for training these young students.  Anne was soon enrolled in Madison Elementary. After graduating from El Cajon Valley High School where she was crowned Prom Queen, Anne came back to the school now called – St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center – a Day Training Center for adults with developmental disabilities.

Today, Anne comes to the Center five days a week where she enjoys Sophie’s Gallery Art Program, gardening, and swimming.

Fast forward to 2013 — nearly 50 years after St. Madeleine’s opened.

Today, St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center is a day program for over 400 adult students. Now more than ever, families and care providers of adults with developmental disabilities are seeking a safe place where their loved ones can spend their days continuing to learn and express themselves through art, music, dance, culinary arts, gardening, aquatics and fitness, job training and supported employment and much more.

Stephanie Monis, age 22, has been at SMSC for two

At 3 years old, Stephanie showed early signs of delayed development. The Children’s Developmental Evaluation Center diagnosed Stephanie with Autism.  Due to her parents’ continuous concern and involvement in Stephanie’s well-being, she was enrolled in a speech intensive therapy program to increase her verbal skills. Additionally, Steve and Cheri (Stephanie’s parents) enrolled Stephanie in the best programs throughout San Diego County.

After repeated, brief (albeit serendipitous) encounters with St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center, Cheri finally toured the campus as Stephanie approached enrollment age.  After the tour, Cheri knew St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center was the place for Stephanie because it was the “perfect match” for what Stephanie needed, which was a safe environment that would allow her to experience and express herself beyond academic achievement.

Today, Stephanie enjoys Sophie’s Gallery Art Program, drama, swimming, sign language, yoga and most of all, singing in the choir. In addition to loving these classes, Stephanie gets to be herself. Cheri says, “Stephanie has become more self-confident and independent since she’s been at St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center. She has blossomed into a beautiful young adult with dreams and aspirations.”

Stephanie&AnneDevelopmental Disabilities are not going away. We are asking YOU to honor the past and invest in the future TODAY with a gift of at least $100.  However, no gift is too small.   Every gift counts . . .  every gift matters . . . in the lives of adults with developmental disabilities. Send your gift TODAY in the enclosed envelope or donate online by visiting

Thank you in advance for supporting Anne, Stephanie and the 400+ students with developmental disabilities who attend St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center  . . .  and for the many students in years to come!

P.S. Today, our per-student funding gap is $2,000.  Donations to our annual appeals are an important source of gap funding. Will you please consider a gift of $100 or more?  Donations received by December 31, 2013 qualify for a tax deduction and will be listed in our 2013 list of supporters. Our Tax ID number is: 95-1957332.

P.P.S. Looking for a different gift option? Consider a planned gift such as a bequest or estate gift. Contact us today if you are considering a planned gift. Let us recognize your caring generosity as a member of our Legacy Circle. Contact Kellye Buchanan, Development Coordinator, TODAY at (619) 442-5129 ext. 332 for more information, or if you’ve already left SMSC in your will or estate.

New Website

Welcome to our newly redesigned website!

We hope that you will be able to easily find what you are looking for and will enjoy looking at all of the programs and news that we have available. If you have any questions or concerns about the new website, contact

SMSC Transition Program Now Accepting Students

ST. MADELEINE SOPHIE’S CENTER offers a nonpublic school transition program for students 17 – 22 years old. The purpose is to provide additional program supports & training of students with developmental disabilities who remain eligible for services until age 22 and would benefit from an individualized academic and vocational training program.

ST. MADELEINE SOPHIE’S CENTER’s nonpublic school program offers young adults with developmental disabilities who may also have other physical challenges a wide range of intensive, individualized interventions designed to provide needed assistance in areas of academic, social & vocational training that will allow a smooth transition to adulthood. The goal is to clearly identify strengths & weaknesses of the individual and, in the process, stimulate students’ awareness of their strengths in order to assist them in addressing their challenges. The program uses information from a variety of sources including the student’s social, emotional, psychoeducational, and neuropsychological context to implement the students’ IEP and designated instructional services.

Population served:

The program serves students who need a more-structured, non-traditional, and supportive school environment. The program meets the needs of young adult students in academics, work preparation and lifeskills, and community integration and growth. The center’s design and opportunity for related services accommodates students with developmental disabilities who would not benefit from a traditional public school academic program.


Students attend school for at 1,680 minutes per week, which includes small group instruction, transition services, and counseling. These school-based services are available to each student during the regular school year and the extended year. Other supervised instruction available based on student needs are independent study, independent living skills and vocational education. Vocational counseling, mobility training, and job placement including job coaching and paid employment are available. Counseling consultation and support to parents are also provided.


Adult students who need an independent living focus study applied and functional job readiness, functional academics, community-based instruction, and self-help skills to prepare for employment and maximum independence.

During instruction students have the opportunity to develop valuable social and transitional skills and have access to computers and Assistive Technology.

Adult students who need to focus on a high school diploma can earn credits to meet district high school requirements through on-site content area instruction and individualized, independent assignments in core academic areas to complete at home.


Students work with psychologists and school counselors to deal with self-esteem, emotional and social issues. Counseling staff provide help with nutrition, life skills, job-related social skills, vocational awareness, goal setting and self-confidence.

Pre-Vocational and Employment

Work-Based Placement Support provides students the skills, resources and information they need to locate and maintain employment opportunities both in supported settings and independently.

Interagency linkages

Transition planning is the process of students, school, families and communities working together to determine effective educational experiences to assist students with disabilities to achieve their goals and prepare for their adult roles. ST. MADELEINE SOPHIE’S CENTER works with students to provide work-based learning experiences and community linkages that support transition planning and progress.

Behavioral support

Positive behavior development is a focus in the school program and is supported by trained professionals. Positive reinforcement in the form of tangible rewards, verbal praise and encouragement, and building self-esteem are available for all students.

Recreation and leisure

Students are advised, supported and rewarded for establishing participation in routine physical fitness activities and community fitness resources.

Other Designated Instructional Service

Language and Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy are available to students with a documented need for these services.


Assessment and evaluation occur prior to acceptance into the program. A review of records and an interview are necessary prior to admission. Students must demonstrate a willingness and potential ability to work toward individual and program goals in academics, social development, and independent living.

For a copy of our brochure, click here.
For more information, please contact Bill Blankartz or Katie Hall at 619-442-2033.