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Take a Ride… On the Road to VICTORY

By Raquel Prancer

“Our new building will have more opportunities to expand and improve programs for children with developmental disabilities.”

Held at the Miami Auto Museum, The Victory Center, which educates children with Autism and related disabilities, is hosting its 17th annual gala, The Road To Victory with a 50’s car show theme, on March 11 at 7 p.m. to raise money for its educational programs. The Victory Center is 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonsectarian educational organization founded by Barry and Judi Nelson, the parents of a child with Autism who found themselves frustrated by the lack of appropriate educational opportunities for their son. The Victory Center is a unique school that provides children suffering from Autism and similar disorders with comprehensive individualized treatment in a 1:1, 2:1 and 3:1 student/teacher ratio, in a classroom setting that is unique in Southeast Florida.

“We looked at every option available for our son at the time, but there was no school in South Florida to get him the level of education we were looking for,” said Barry Nelson, an attorney and member of the center’s board of directors. After trying public and private schools, the Nelsons found the only effective program was something called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) with intensive teacher to student ratio. With the encouragement of Dr. Michael Alessandri, executive director of the University of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, the Nelson’s launched The Victory Center with just four students. Now, 17 years later, the school is at capacity with 30 full-time students ranging in age from 3 to 22, with varying degrees of Autism and related disabilities. Students come from both Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

Rhonda Hill has been chairing the gala for the past seven years. Hill moved to South Florida in 2008 from Boise, Idaho to enroll her son -in the Victory Center. Her son suffers from Autism with an intellectual disability and has been able to learn life skills from his teachers at The Victory Center. “From the moment I moved here, I knew the teachers and staff would be my support group,” said Hill. Nearly nine years later, Hill’s son (now 16) is doing exceptionally well, learning new life skills to care for himself as he enters adulthood.

Events like the gala help raise funds for school programs and technologies to better serve the students. Past events have made the school’s expansion possible. In November of 2016, the Victory Center broke ground on a brand new facility that will double the centers capacity. “Our new building will have more opportunities to expand and improve programs for children with developmental disabilities,” said Victory Center CEO Raquel Pancer. “We are excited to watch the construction of our new home and cannot wait for completion.” By 2018, The Victory Center will be moving to a new 8,500 square-foot facility with expanded capacity to service up to 60 students.

For more information about the school or to purchase tickets for the gala, please contact Raquel Pancer, CEO, rpancer@thevictoryschool.org, and 305-466-1142 or visit www.victorygala.org.