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BRAAC Breaks Ground on $1.7 Million Expansion

The groundbreaking was held on Thursday May 5th. (L to R): Joel Miller, Board Member; Angie Leonard, CEO; Sandra Pratt, Board Member; Christina Giuliano, Executive Director; Craig Balzer, Board Member; Nathan Hungate, Board Member.
The groundbreaking was held on Thursday May 5th. (L to R): Joel Miller, Board Member; Angie Leonard, CEO; Sandra Pratt, Board Member; Christina Giuliano, Executive Director; Craig Balzer, Board Member; Nathan Hungate, Board Member.

Local community leaders and officials joined together today with Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center (BRAAC) and their honored guests to officially break ground on a $1.7 million expansion on the current Roanoke facility. The expansion will add an additional 12,650 square feet to the 25,000 square feet the facility already maintains.

“Today we celebrate not only a groundbreaking, but also many groundbreaking opportunities to offer an education that significantly increases the chances for gains in intellectual and social development for our children with autism,” Speaker Martha Hooker, Catawba District Representative on the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, said.

The project should allow BRAAC to serve an additional 40 to 50 new students during the school year with additional growth opportunities to serve the community through the other programs BRAAC offers. The additional space will introduce a new life skills center as well as a vocational training center. The life skills center will be the first of its kind in the Roanoke Valley offering training using ABA techniques.

“This expansion is an historic step for BRAAC,” stated Christina Giuliano, Executive Director of BRAAC. “With the new space, BRAAC foresees being able to serve our current waitlist at the Roanoke site, once space and staff are finalized and trained. The additional centers will allow us to be able to meet the needs of our children and adolescents, preparing them for adulthood and teaching independent living and job training skills.”

This expansion, which has been three years in the planning, will also include a new gymnasium, additional one-on-one spaces, transitional classrooms and larger STARS classrooms. The funding for this project is currently being raised through grants, community business support, donors and fundraisers.

“We outgrew our current square footage years ago,” stated Angie Leonard, CEO. “This groundbreaking ceremony is yet another milestone in the 42 years that BRAAC has been serving the community and students with unique learning challenges. We are very proud of what this new expansion will bring to the community and to the students and families we currently serve and will serve in the future.”

BRAAC is the only primarily Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) based program in the area. There are two other programs in Roanoke that provide private day services that can utilize ABA techniques; however, BRAAC’s highly trained and certified ABA staff, incorporating techniques with Special Education when working with individuals with Autism and Learning Disabilities, sets BRAAC apart.

“Angie Leonard and BRAAC are to be commended for their vision that has come to fruition for transition-age youth with autism spectrum disorder,” stated Dr. Gena Barnhill, Associate Professor at Lynchburg College. “Research has shown that often these youth fail to receive services that would enable them to obtain employment, postsecondary education and independence to the extent possible because of the significant lack of services, often referred to as ‘the service cliff,’ during the transition to young adulthood. This Life Skills Center, the first of its kind in the Roanoke Valley, will bridge the gap in the current services cliff.”

The new space is scheduled to be opened and operational by November 2016.

 

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