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The HeartShare School, a school for children ages 5-21 with autism, celebrated its first graduate, Valerie, in June 2014. Valerie first joined HeartShare with the opening of its Children’s Residences, adjacent to the school, three years earlier. Valerie’s mother, Odessa, described the obstacles that Valerie overcame to reach this milestone, “Valerie experienced a lot of changes when she moved into the residence and started attending The HeartShare School. But, despite her struggles, she continued to attend her classes and gained exposure to work experiences at the Brooklyn PACT Program. She’s become more independent.”
HeartShare’s Brooklyn Partnering with Autistic CiTizens (PACT) Day Habilitation Program in Downtown Brooklyn, developed in 2006 for young adults who recently graduated from public school, addresses the learning, socialization and communication needs of individuals with autism. Valerie was assigned tasks fitting her individual needs, including earning a stipend providing administrative support at the Brooklyn PACT Program. “Our Developmental Disabilities Services reach all aspects of a person’s life and, in turn, truly elevating them to a place of greater independence,” noted Carol Verdi, HeartShare Vice President of Education Services. “At HeartShare, Valerie made positive strides because of her continuous exposure in the classroom, at home and in the community to a rich learning environment specialized for young people with autism.”