A college-like program to fill the unmet development and social needs of severely disabled adults in southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois is what a new nonprofit group hopes to create in Bristol.
Matthias Academy will kick off a fundraising campaign in January in the hopes of raising money to purchase a property for the school, said Liz Pumala, a special education teacher in Gurnee, Ill., and a member of the organization’s board of directors.
A parent information meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, at the Kenosha County Center, 19600 75th St. (Highway 50).
Pumala said Matthias Academy would serve a population of adults with intellectual disabilities, specialized medical needs and severe autism who are turned away from other adult programming.
“Ninety-percent of my (high school) graduates just go home,” Pumala said.
The name “Matthias” is a family name, Pumala said, adding it was chosen because it means “gift from God.”
Board member Marjorie Pietras-Jacobi, of Bristol, knows firsthand as the mother of a nonverbal autistic child that there is a need for such a program.
“My daughter is not a candidate for the other day programs that are available once she transitions out of high school at age 21,” Pietras-Jacobi said. “There isn’t an enrichment program for them.”
The academy “will provide a community college-like program” where the students can both learn and work. Plans are to offer classes such as health and wellness, systems engineering, music, culinary arts, meteorology, fashion and design, marketing, communication and digital media, horticulture and environmental studies, and accounting and business management — all tailored to individual learning levels.
“I’d love to see a bakery, garden center and a thrift store where the students can work that is open to the community,” Pumala said.
Pietras-Jacobi said keeping active at home is difficult for adults with developmental difficulties. The lack of activity not only affects their quality of life, but also can lead to health issues and shorten their life.
The day program will also include recreation. Leisure time will be guided, and exercise and mobility will be required multiple times daily to maintain health and wellness, she said.
“A program like this will allow them to continue to be part of something — part of the community,” Pietras-Jacobi said.