Our History

Our History

Success in Learning  •  Success in Life


St. Mary’s Child Center was founded in 1961 under the direction of Msgr. Galvin. Alongside a group of concerned parents, they opened a remedial reading program and diagnostic clinic to serve children with learning and emotional challenges.

St. Mary’s experienced much growth in the following years. In 1967, a group of nurses started the preschool, including a guild that served children with special needs. One year later, St. Mary’s officially became a United Way agency, benefitting from the funding and resources offered.

In 1975, speech therapy supports for articulation and communication were secured and provided for St. Mary’s students as needed.

This history of St. Mary’s Child Center
as told by Bill Carson

Until 1986, twenty-two children were housed in a dilapidated building. With little money to continue their efforts, the staff was hoping for a miracle. That miracle arrived in the form of 33 generous community leaders who built a new school and are now referred to as St. Mary’s Child Center’s first “Godparents.” What they accomplished is an epic tale of good-heartedness, good fortune and series of mysterious miracles that resulted in what Bob Thompson, a founding “Godparent,” called “the biggest little building in Indianapolis.”

Simultaneously, St. Mary’s launched special events to help raise funds for the children and needs of the school. Events such as the Annual Raffle and Night of Miracles began.

Our mission shifted in 1991 when federal law mandated public schools provide services for children with special needs. St. Mary’s began focusing on serving children living in poverty to ensure success in school and life-long positive outcomes.

In 1998, we expanded our program to the Gilliatte building at Fort Harrison in response to the increasing demands for our services. This building was purchased and donated for the use of St. Mary’s.

In 2001, we began studying the Reggio Emilia philosophy from Reggio Emilia, Italy. The strategies and teachings were implemented within our classrooms for best practices with children.

Bob Thompson

In 2003, St. Mary’s began naming buildings, rooms and societies after some of the influential original Godparents that led St. Mary’s to the successful path of current days. The dedication and passion of these individuals remains active, growing and inspiring. Longtime friend, Bob Thompson, even creatively formed partnerships that led to regular revenue from business operations supporting scholarships for over 25 years and continuing today.

In 2007, the SMECC Outreach professional development and coaching services continued to grow an impact. Our team began training educators in the Reggio Emilia Approach to share the knowledge and increase the quality of programs for children to thousands of educators and their students across Indiana and the Midwest.

In 2009 the Hundred Languages of Children Exhibit was brought to the Indiana State House with our partners in the Indianapolis Reggio Collaborative. The exhibit allowed opportunities for professional development for thousands of educators across the state and country.

St. Mary’s expanded programming again in 2017 and enhanced our Family Engagement Program. The focus is on support, mentoring and education to the families for a well-rounded impact.

Throughout the recent past, we have operated classrooms at IPS/ Butler Laboratory School, Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields and St. Anthony’s Catholic School. We continually evaluate additional partnerships to respond to the community need. During the 2022-2023 school year, we served 152 children.