Emerald Coast Autism Center Breaks Ground on Second Facility "Emerald Coast Learning Center"

May 12, 2022

The new building will be located on the Northwest Florida State College Campus in Niceville, Florida

NICEVILLE, FL. (May 6, 2022) – On Wednesday, June 8, 2022, starting at 5 pm, Emerald Coast Autism Center will host a public Groundbreaking Event for Emerald Coast Learning Center, a new building located directly next to Emerald Coast Autism Center on the campus of Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) in Niceville, FL. This second facility will provide a safe, structured learning environment for the nonprofit's Transition to Work (TTW) program and its academic classrooms.

The new building plans include a 20,000-square-foot building connected to the current facility on the Niceville, FL campus of NWFSC. This new building will host the Transition to Work program, a pre-vocational program through the Florida Department of Education in partnership with NWFSC designed to teach older students job skills for future employment. NWFSC graciously partnered with the nonprofit and the generous support of Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. Additionally, the new building will expand the nonprofit's academic classrooms.

Heidi Blalock, CEO of Emerald Coast Autism Center, "We are so excited for this next phase of ECAC! 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 (ECLC) 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.

Patrick Mills, BCBA, ECAC Transition to Work Coordinator, says, "Transition-to-Work (TTW) is a great opportunity for our clients. 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 has plans to focus its current facility on younger students receiving one-to-one Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy services. More information about Emerald Coast Autism Center, including the organization's services and ways to support the cause, can be found at www.ecautismcenter.org or by calling 850-279-3000.