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Driving to the Moon: A Student Profile
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Driving to the Moon: A Student Profile

Son Inspires Adult Student to Pursue Teaching Career

By Sr. Eileen Quinlan, SND, Ph.D. ’74         

At the Notre Dame College Dean’s List Dinner on March 15, one of the honorees was missing. Vicki Brusky wasn’t receiving her certificate for a straight-A fall semester because she was driving home to Amherst with her son Mark, a third-grader at Julie Billiart School. That long drive between Amherst and Lyndhurst gives Vicki plenty of time to think about God’s providence that brought her to a new place in life – the classrooms at Notre Dame College.

After struggling throughout first grade in an Amherst public school, Mark was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Vicki worked through her surprise and confusion in part by googling “best schools in the U.S. for Asperger’s,” which yielded a link to Julie Billiart School.

Vicki scheduled a visit to the school and a meeting with Jodi Johnston, the principal. “As soon as I walked in, I just knew,” Vicki recalls, “that this was the perfect school for Mark.” She appreciates the skill and warmth of the teachers and their dedication to ensuring that each child learns to his or her potential.

An inspiration: Vicki Brusky and her son Mark
An inspiration: Vicki Brusky and her son Mark

Johnston showed Vicki how to apply for the autism scholarship from the Ohio Department of Education, but there was still the issue of a nearly 100-mile round trip every day. How could a single mother working at a grocery store pay for transportation as well as other private-school costs?

“Things happen for a reason,” Vicki says. Within weeks, another far-West Side parent called her about sharing the drive, and soon Vicki was driving three children to and from Julie Billiart every day, able to quit the grocery job because she was earning the gas money.

Meanwhile, Mark adapted well and came to love every day of school in Sr. Sharon Kovalcik’s second grade classroom. While most children are thrilled by a snow day, Mark is sad when school is closed. “I love to go to JB,” he tells his mother, “because everyone there likes me.”

As the start of the 2010 school year approached, Vicki realized that she could do more with her days than read novels in a coffee shop. She could go back to college.

After visiting a few campuses, Vicki walked into Notre Dame College and knew, once again, that “everything fit perfectly.” Sarah Palace, an advisor in adult admissions, arranged a schedule to fit within Mark’s JB school day, and last fall Vicki began coursework leading toward a degree as an intervention specialist.

“I would be so happy,” Vicki says, “if someday my students think of me the way Mark thinks of his teachers at Julie Billiart.”

Driving hundreds of miles, studying late and early, even missing the Dean’s List Dinner – Vicki is ready to do whatever it takes “to get the best education possible for both of us.”

“I would drive to the moon,” she says, “so Mark can be at Julie Billiart.”

Sr. Eileen Quinlan, SND, Ph.D. ’74 is an associate professor of English and communication at Notre Dame College.