Ernie & Liezl Els led a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on Monday August 17, 2015 to celebrate the opening of the first two buildings of The Els Center of Excellence, just 18 months after construction had first begun on site.
The Lower School, which will be known as ‘The Learning Center at The Els Center of Excellence’, will provide public charter school education for up to 150 children from ages 3-14, and, in-line with the entire campus, has been specifically designed to create a learning environment that is suited to children on the spectrum. This includes features such as special LED lighting to mitigate behavioral issues that can be triggered by standard fluorescents; specially designed learning labs for life-kills and vocational training; and a sensory integration room to foster sensory and motor development. Through the use of interactive technology and observation rooms the Lower School will also provide an invaluable resource for applied research studies, allowing resident experts, visiting scholars and researchers to examine issues and develop practical approaches to the wide range of challenges that individuals on the spectrum face.
The state-of-the-art Auditorium Building, designed to help facilitate the dissemination and gathering of applied research findings and best practices, will enable the Foundation to take its global outreach activities to the next level. The building includes a 300-seat auditorium equipped with video-conferencing technology, a green-room, 3 smaller video-conferencing suites and additional office space to house the Els for Autism Foundation development and programming staff, visiting scholars and researchers.
These are the first components of a 26-acre campus that, once complete, will include an Upper School (with capacity for an additional 150 students ages 14-22), extensive sports and outdoor recreational facilities (including a gymnasium, swimming pool, golf practice facility, athletics field, and play courts), a cafeteria, a medical and professional services building and an adult services component.
Even before the dedicated buildings are in place the Center is bringing together the critical elements of early intervention, education, sports and leisure, applied research, transition to adulthood, medical and professional services, and adult services all on one campus. Having all the essential elements on one campus, with the integrated programing and continuity of service that this allows, will not only be a tremendous resource for the children in the local area of Palm Beach County, but positions the Center as a game-changing resource for autism. Using the Center as its base, Els for Autism will be developing and rolling out innovative, evidence-based programs for families and individuals across the life span. These programs are focused on making best practices in education and therapy available to children, families and autism experts not just locally but across the U.S. and internationally.
Speaking at the ceremony Ernie commented: “This dream has been in the pipeline since 2009 and when the first kids, including our son Ben, walked through the door on Monday it was an incredibly special and proud moment. We have only reached this point thanks to the collective support of a huge number of individuals and organizations. Whether people have donated $1 or $1million everyone who has supported us has literally been a building block for this Center.”
Afterwards Liezl Els, credited by her husband as “the power behind this whole thing,” spoke movingly about seeing their dream of a world-class Center for Excellence come to fruition. Liezl explained that their goal was “to make our Center and programs accessible to people around the world. This Center is going to give our children the space to explore and express themselves. Over time they have had to make do with whatever they could get.”
Liezl added “We wanted to build a facility where these kids could realize their potential…and so that we could show the world just what our kids are made of, how strong they are, how talented they are and how far they can really go in life and what a massive contribution they can make to society.”
The Foundation’s fundraising campaign is now focused on raising the capital to complete the Upper School, the sports facilities, the medical and professional services building and the adult services component. Donations can be made online at www.elsforautism.com and by check (made payable to ‘Els for Autism’) and addressed to: Els for Autism, The Els Center of Excellence, 18370 Limestone Creek Rd, Jupiter, FL 33458.
For information on the Capital Campaign and its programs, please contact the Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-598-6200. Or to view The Els Center of Excellence online brochure, please click here.