Written by: Palmetto Bay

The Rising Start Foundation

Palmetto Bay’s Mayor Karyn Cunningham and Vice Mayor Leanne Tellam recently celebrated the opening of the new neurodiverse learning center, The Rising Start Foundation, with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The Rising Start Foundation provides a bridge from school life to adulthood through vocational training and employment opportunities to those with autism and other diagnoses. According to findings published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, more than 5.4 million people in the United States — or 1 in 45 — over age 18 are on the spectrum; and they estimate that over the next five years, 500,000 autism-diagnosed children will transition to adulthood.

“The Rising Start Foundation is an extension of our early intervention program, EIBS, and a response to our students’ and families’ need for a conduit towards a successful transition between school and adult life,” said Maria Alejandra Mejia, master in applied behavioral analysis and autism spectrum disorders and founder of The Rising Start Foundation. “Postsecondary education or training has become a critical requirement for an individual’s employability and economic stability in recent years, yet children and young adults with autism face enormous challenges fulfilling those requirements. Through The Rising Start Foundation program, we aim to educate, train and employ neurodiverse young adults and support them in developing fulfilling and independent lives.”

Studies have found that youth with autism are at high risk for being unengaged in either postsecondary education or employment during the first two years after high school. Furthermore, students with disabilities are less likely than peers in the general population to graduate, with a completion rate of only 39% for young adults with autism. “The Rising Start Foundation is a neurodiverse learning center for young adults with autism and other diagnoses. This center will help close a gap in much needed services for neurodiverse young adults in South Dade

The Rising Start Foundation will target the South Florida population aged 14 to 35 and prepare their students to lead fulfilling and independent lives by providing the academic, behavioral, socio-emotional, life skills tools and strategies essential to achieving their objectives. But a unique and critical component of The Rising Start Foundation is the Vocational Program, whose centerpiece will be the creation of actual operating business units where the participants will be trained and have the opportunity for genuine employment in a truly “safe” working environment.

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Last modified: May 1, 2023