The Social & Learning Institute has been serving the La Porte County area since 1976. Since our inception we have grown to serve twenty-seven students with a regular part-time staff of four and multiple volunteers.
We strive to help individuals with developmental disabilities expand their minds, learn important life skills, and recognize their worth through a structured balance of socialization and learning activities.
The Social & Learning Institute derives its name from two of life's activities responsible for the personal growth of each individual. Socializing with other people and learning about the world we live in are skills that we must all learn in order to successfully navigate through our daily lives.
Since 1976 The Social & Learning Institute has upheld its mission to:
During the years of 1973 through 1976, the State of Indiana funded an experimental program at The LaPorte County Therapy Center located in Michigan City called the Adult Activities Class. This program provided intellectually and developmentally disabled adults with opportunities to grow in their social and learning skills, as well as instilling the special camaraderie of similarly disabled individuals in a safe, nurturing, and protected environment.
In the spring of 1976 the funding for this test program ended. The state-funded program which grew out of, and then replaced, this Adult Activities Class was more directed toward vocational training for disabled individuals. Unfortunately, the new program excluded many of the earlier program’s participants who were more severely disabled and could not be trained with marketable vocational skills.
Suddenly there was a desperate need for a program to serve these more severely intellectually disabled people of our community. Through the dedicated work of the parents of these individuals and countless local volunteers, led by the late Marguerite Gardner and James Guerrucci, the groundwork was laid for what would become The Social & Learning Institute.
With the invaluable aid of a long-time advocate for the disabled people of the State of Indiana, the late State Senator Anita Bowser, assisted this group with the legal mechanics of establishing the fledgling organization with non-profit status and incorporation. Senator Bowser was also credited with having inspired the name for The Social and Learning Institute.
During this time of transition, the Institute’s charter students were in need of a place to gather. Fran and Patricia Mark quickly converted their home’s garage into a classroom for their daughter and her classmates to meet during the warm summer months. By the fall of 1976, First Presbyterian Church of Michigan City had offered to provide space for the school as a community mission and public service. The Social and Learning Institute finally had a place to call "home." As happens with all growing households, The Social & Learning Institute's program would eventually outgrow even the Presbyterian Church's generous provision of space.
Relentless fund-raising efforts by parents, caregivers, and volunteers raised the money needed to provide the equipment and supplies needed to support the Institute’s first official classes in September of 1976. Years of diligent fiscal responsibility, continued grant support, faithful donors, and constant fund-raising activity, allowed The Social and Learning Institute to purchase its own building in 2007. It was not long before enrollment required even more space. The expansion project was completed in 2013 followed by a grand opening celebration in May 2014.
Fund-raising efforts continue to be a part of the Institute's ongoing struggle to meet the financial requirements needed to keep its program operating. Over the years, the dedicated support of many generous families, local fraternal organizations, churches, and businesses have provided support to maintain an affordable tuition rate and allow for enhanced student activities. In addition, the Institute has been awarded grant funding from local, state and national sources to support various aspects of its specialized program.
When, for instance, the number of enrolled students outgrew the Institute's volunteer arrangements for transportation to activities and events, two local benevolent organizations, Barker Welfare Foundation (in 1990) and Michigan City Community Enrichment Corporation (in 2006), stepped forward with the funds for the Institute to purchase two, fifteen-passenger vans for this purpose. Unity Foundation of La Porte County and Duneland Health Council have also provided grant funding to support student programming.
Having celebrated its 40th anniversary, The Social and Learning Institute has grown to serve twenty-seven students with a regular part-time staff of four and multiple volunteers. Its first class was comprised of only five students with a single teacher and six regular volunteers.
For thirty-nine years, James Guerrucci devotedly served as a teacher and executive director of The Social & Learning Institute. Its family of students, staff, associates, and friends were deeply saddened by Jim’s unexpected passing in March 2015. Devoting his life to serve and raise awareness of the needs and abilities of the disabled population provided an exemplary example of love and commitment. It is the Institute’s desire to honor, celebrate, and continue his legacy.
Reaching forty years of service is a notable milestone however it may never have been accomplished without the determination of Jim Guerrucci. Jim believed that although The Social & Learning Institute was incorporated as a non-sectarian and non-discriminatory non-profit organization, it was essential to conduct all operations under Christian ethics. Working in the Lord’s service, the Institute has been greatly blessed. Under the direction of its Board of Trustees and loyal staff, The Social & Learning Institute continues its mission to bring joy, meaning, cultural enrichment and a sense of self-worth to those it serves.