Students from St. John the Baptist High School, West Islip, partnered  with residents of Catholic Charities’ group homes to present their 6th Annual Musical Variety Show, entitled “Friends,” on Sunday, January 25.

Rehearsals began in October, 2014, and continued throughout the holiday season into the new year with more than 90 students and 82 residents meeting on Friday evenings at both the school and a number of the group homes. Students and faculty from St. John’s worked hand-in-hand with residents and collaborated on everything from musical numbers and choreography to costume production and set design.

The variety show not only increases awareness of the often overlooked abilities of the developmentally disabled, it also highlights the kind of life-changing experiences students have when they work with vulnerable populations.  “We’re bombarded with talk about developing young minds, but rarely do they have an opportunity to experience anything like this in their day-to-day endeavors,” said Laura A. Cassell, CEO of Catholic Charities. “Students initially feel like they’re out of their comfort zones but after a few weeks of working with the special needs community, they acquire a new understanding of how beautiful and capable they truly are. And they grasp a whole new outlook on their own lives with some having even gone on to pursue human service careers.”


All photos by Gregory A. Shemitz