After the new Braintree High School was voted forward by residents in the late 1960s, a parent went to see Guidance Director Michael Molongoski, telling him that there were no provisions in the plans for high school-age special needs students.
It was "a meeting that I will always remember," Molongoski told the crowd gathered at Town Hall on Sunday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Project PROVE.
Molongoski, along with other members of the administration and a newly-formed parent advisory group, hunted down a federal grant because the district's budget was closed for the year. They found one that required "almost a two-inch thick dissertation" showing that the program would be innovative and reproduceable.
"No one was deterred," Molongoski said.
That $100,000 grant became the initial funding source for Project PROVE. It began with five students at the high school and has expanded over the decades to 25 students today with an extensive support system.
"The journey from that first year to the present, 40 years later, has brought programs and improvements one after another," Molongoski said.
The former Assistant Superintendent hosted the event on Sunday, in which dozens of current and former PROVE students, parents, teachers, administrators and town officials turned out to be honored and to celebrate the success of the ground-breaking program.
"Project PROVE represents the epitome of what true inclusion is all about," Superintendent Dr. Peter Kurzberg said. "We are all better human beings for having Project PROVE be a part of our lives."
Mayor Joseph Sullivan added that it is "critically important" town and school officials ensure the program continues. He declared Oct. 21 "Project PROVE Day" in Braintree.