St. Mary Catholic Central high school senior inspires peers with his path to graduation

Jacob Goda will be the first-ever graduate of the school’s Inclusion Program, a curriculum that provides adaptive learning to individuals with disabilities.
Published: May. 1, 2021 at 12:12 PM EDT
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MONROE, Mich. (WTVG) - St. Mary Catholic Central seniors gathered side by side to share and celebrate their next chapter after graduation at Friday’s College Decision Announcement celebration.

“When I first got my letter to UT, I was so happy. I was so happy I was going to cry,” said senior Jacob Goda. “With going to college it feels like this is just who I am, and I said to myself I’m proud to be a Rocket.”

Jacob Goda will soon be headed to the University of Toledo, but his journey to college was not easy. Living with down syndrome, more than anything Jacob wanted to follow in his family’s footsteps by attending high school at St. Mary.

“I belong at St. Mary Catholic Central because this is where I want to be.”

Jacob explains his dream career is working with children and inspiring the next generation.
Jacob explains his dream career is working with children and inspiring the next generation.

Jacob became the inaugural student of the catholic school’s St. Andre Bessette Open Doors Inclusion Program. Led by teacher Kyle McElvany it’s the first and only catholic school program in the state of Michigan that provides adaptive learning to those with disabilities. Mr. McElvany says it’s a valuable tool for all students.

“You know he’s gotten the authentic catholic school experience that a lot of families desire for their children,” said McElvany. “And at the same time he’s made an impact on our school, we see a difference in just how our students respond to people with disabilities and just an overall level of understanding of compassion and understanding.”

During Jacob’s 3 years at St. Mary Catholic Central, he’s managed the school’s softball team, been a part of the yearbook staff, and made countless friends. Jacob believes the best part about going to school is being surrounded by supportive incredible people like his best friend Allison Pinkelman.

“Everyone knows Jacob and he’s going to be remembered as someone who accomplished everything he wanted too, and didn’t let anything get in his way,” said Allison Pinkelman. “If he doesn’t let anything get in the way of him no one should. He’s accomplishing his dreams and I’m beyond proud of him. I knew he could do it from the beginning but now he made it real, and I’m very proud of him.”

Jacob’s days walking down St. Mary hallways are coming to an end with graduation taking place on June 5th. Jacob says he’s counting down the days until he will soon get to freely roam across UT’s campus but explains it’s a bittersweet feeling.

“I’m sad I’m going to be graduating high school, because I’m going to miss my friends, but it’s time to start a new chapter for me,” said Goda.

Staff at St. Mary Catholic Central high school explain their next chapter is to continue to grow their inclusion program. Currently, there are 5 students that make up the St. Andre Bessette Open Doors Inclusion Program. St. Mary school leaders explain they hope their efforts to make their school a more welcoming place can inspire other catholic schools across the region to enact similar programs.

For more information contact Kyle McElvany at

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