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One year later: Drisko makes strides

Dustin Drisko readies to turn in a homework assignment at Educational Family Services.
Dustin Drisko readies to turn in a homework assignment at Educational Family Services.

For just over one year, 26-year-old Dustin Drisko has been a pupil at Educational/Family Services (EFS), a ministry of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., and a part of Guerin Outreach Ministries.

His tutor, EFS Director Penny Sullivan, recently said Dustin – who has been diagnosed with autism, epilepsy and learning disabilities – has come a long way.

“He’s made phenomenal progress,” Sullivan said. “His reading skills have gone from almost non-existent to the third-grade level. He can add and subtract and he’s working on his grammar skills.”

Recently, Dustin arrived at the facility – located at 3850 United States 150, West Terre Haute, just outside the north entrance to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods – for a tutoring session with a homework assignment.

Sullivan had given him a stack of flash cards with words on them. Dustin was instructed to look through the cards and identify words he did not know. From there, he had to write the words down multiple times on sheets of paper.

The assignment helped Dustin with his writing and memory skills.

Dustin comes to the facility every Monday and Wednesday for one-hour tutoring sessions. He works specifically with Sullivan.

“I’ve come a long way,” Dustin said. “I’m learning and I get to see Miss Penny smile every day I’m here.”

“We’re currently working on English, grammar and some math. We’re giving him life skills that any person needs,” Sullivan said.

“We’ve taught him the basics to help him live on his own, or at least with some assistance.”

“This program has been a real asset to him,” Dustin’s mother Delia said. “A year ago, when he started in the program, he was a kindergarten reading level. Now, he’s doing multiplications, using the calculator on his phone, utilizing the Internet. Those are some milestones that a year ago, I never thought he would accomplish. He’s started using vocabulary that I didn’t realize he knew. You just have to be around him.”

Initially, one of Dustin’s goals was to receive help with driver’s education through EFS. He has made progress in this field and now has his permit.

Delia advocates for people with disabilities in the community. She said many in the community would benefit from EFS.

“I would hate to see that program liquidated,” she said. “I had no idea where to go and then a friend suggested I give (EFS) a call. Penny Sullivan has the patience of Job. She’s fantastic and so are the sisters. Everybody involved with the programming has been fabulous.”

EFS needs the support of the Wabash Valley community if free tutoring is going to continue at the site. For several years, EFS personnel and some services have been financially supported by the Sisters of Providence. But today, because of decreasing numbers of sister wage-earners, health care needs of retired members, and the costs of daily operations and programs, such continuing help is not possible.

For more information, to help tutor or volunteer, contact Sister Rebecca Keller at 812-535-2878 or by email at rkeller@spsmw.org.

About the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

Media contact

For inquiries or information, contact Jason Moon at jmoon@spsmw.org or 812-535-2810.

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