Emerald Coast Autism Center will break ground Wednesday, June 8, at 5 p.m., for Emerald Coast Learning Center, a new building located directly next to Emerald Coast Autism Center on the campus of Northwest Florida State College in Niceville. This second facility will provide a safe, structured learning environment for the nonprofit’s Transition to Work program and its academic classrooms.
The new building plans include a 20,000-square-foot building connected to the current facility on the campus. This new building will contain the pre-vocational Transition to Work program through the Florida Department of Education in partnership with NWFSC, designed to teach older students job skills. The new building will also expand the nonprofit’s academic classrooms.
“We are so excited for this next phase of ECAC,” said Heidi Blalock, CEO of Emerald Coast Autism Center. “The new building will help us grow with our students and their families by providing a space designed specifically to meet the needs of our vocational and academic students.” Emerald Coast Learning Center will offer specialized facilities for vocational training, including a commercial kitchen, a laundry facility, Light It Up Brew (the organization’s student-run coffee shop), a car wash, and more. TTW students will continue practicing job skills in-house before heading out on campus or other community partner job sites. ECLC will also house several academic classrooms for students on track to graduate from ECAC and continue with their education at other local public or private schools.
“Transition-to-Work (TTW) is a great opportunity for our clients,” said Patrick Mills, Transition to Work Coordinator. “Each day our students practice vocational skills that will help prepare them for meaningful employment. The program focuses on independence, social skills development, and frequent changing of routines, to better assist in the transitions to the workforce.” Currently, students work on campus in the following departments: Receiving (mail sorting and campus vehicle washing), Kay Litke Culinary Arts Greenhouse (planting, harvesting, and maintenance), Athletic Facilities (cleaning and organizing facilities) and the Mattie Kelly Arts Center (ushering at performances).
The organization plans to focus its current facility on younger students receiving one-to-one Applied Behavior Analysis therapy services. More information can be found at www.ecautismcenter.org or by calling (850) 279-3000.