It has been an incredible 70 years since Noble first opened its doors, and like most great things, it started with an idea. An idea shared by a more than a few people, as it turned out.
In the 1950s, having a child with a disability like Down syndrome was seen as shameful, an accident, or at the very least, a secret to be kept quietly at home.
In 1953, that changed. A few families with a common bond of having a child with a disability started talking. These families had already acted against their doctors’ advice. At that time, physicians would routinely encourage parents to institutionalize children born with a disability. Yet, these families had already taken a bold step: they said “No.”
They loved their children. They knew their kids could learn and grow, develop and contribute. And the more these families talked, the more they wondered whether there were other families like them.
Idea Becomes a Noble Endeavor
They put a small ad in the newspaper: they were hosting a call-out meeting to be held at the War Memorial. They anxiously hoped maybe a few other families might come.
That evening, an overflow crowd of over 200 forced them to find a larger meeting space. Some of these families even knew each other previously; and yet, they didn’t know that they also had a child with a disability.
At that meeting and the ones in the months to follow, these families rallied around an audacious plan: they would open a school. Because the building they chose was near Noble Street, and they felt what they were doing was a noble endeavor, they named it Noble School.
On Sept. 1st, 31 children with disabilities started school for the first time.
Services Rooted in Community Needs
While Noble has evolved so much since those early days, these founding families built a strong foundation that has always looked to the needs of the people we serve to chart the future direction of the organization.
As those first students grew up, work options & services were developed. And with the passage of state & federal laws, schools across the country began opening their doors to all children.
As educational needs were now being met, Noble shifted its focus to helping preschoolers develop the skills needed to enter school ready to learn. In the years that followed, school systems began working with kids ages 3 – 5, and so we pivoted yet again.
We began providing early intervention therapies for babies & toddlers, using those incredible first years to introduce new skills and foster development. We were also early champions of providing services in the child’s home. The theory that the familiar surroundings of a child’s natural environment strengthened early learning soon became best practice everywhere.
For adults, we blazed a path early on with our focus on employment. At first, this meant sheltered workshops with the work performed at our locations. This too evolved over the years, and in 1986, we launched the state’s first Supported Employment service.
As employers found that people with disabilities bring considerable skills, talent and dedication to the table, the demand for Community Employment services & supports grew. Now with the local workforce providing the best opportunities for adults with disabilities to pursue a career, we are ending all sheltered employment services as of Sept. 30.
The Numbers Illustrate Our Impact
We’re also proud to note that just in the last fiscal year:
- We served over 3,700 people.
- Nearly 1,500 babies and toddlers developed new skills in our early intervention services.
- Hundreds of adults are working in the community.
- A steady pipeline of teens are making the transition from the classroom to the workforce.
These and other achievements are highlighted in our FY ’23 Community Impact Report.
We are understandably proud of our founding families. It’s in the spirit of their resolve that we look forward to our next season of service.
Energized As We Move into Our Next Season of Service
We also want to take this opportunity to say Thank You! Thank you for the role you have played, the support you have given, the time you have spent, and the vision you have shared.
We can’t wait to walk this path with you. The best is still to come!