Potential Development Begins Its 8th Decade

By Lori A. Factor
Communications Manager, Potential Development School

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Since 1953, Potential Development has provided services to children in our community with developmental delays, specifically those with autism. What began in one location over 70 years ago has evolved into a comprehensive school system composed of three buildings for children in pre-K through 12th grade.

Potential Development provides children with autism a safe, structured education that empowers them with the skills to reach their fullest potential in life.

This legacy of service to families includes a reputation that has evolved from decades of collaboration with dozens of community partners, says Paul Garchar, CEO. In addition to a strong multifaceted academic and life-skills curriculum, Potential Development offers students and families on-site speech, occupational and physical therapy, mental health assistance and a variety of in-school aid such as guidance counseling, transition support and a licensed social worker.

“We celebrate each child’s success by accepting nothing less than a caring and compassionate environment both inside and outside the classroom, ” says Garchar.  “We are proud of our entire staff for their comprehensive approach to the academic and social well-being of our students.”

Garchar notes several milestones that occurred in 2023.

First, he cites a 15% increase in enrollment, bringing the total number of students to 280. The students represent more than 30 school districts. Fourteen students earned high school diplomas in 2023 as they followed several pathways to graduation.

Responding to the continued surge in the number of families seeking services, a significant investment was made to increase faculty and staff at all three buildings, Garchar says. With active recruitment of teachers, teaching assistants and other professionals, the school employs 137. The board of directors also was expanded to ensure a diverse range of community members.

Beyond academics, opportunities offered to students include an enhanced Special Olympics program featuring basketball and track and an enthusiastic pep club. The popular ESports program at the high school was expanded to the elementary/middle school. A life-skills lab was added at the elementary/middle school and an outdoor fitness space was dedicated in June at the high school.

Also in 2023, plans were initiated for a clothing boutique to provide students with everyday wear as well as for special events and job interviews.

New in 2024 will be the introduction of a completely redesigned website with enhanced information for current and prospective families. With over 80 graduates of Potential Development, a formal alumni program is being established. Fifteen students are on track to receive diplomas in June.

“As one of the first schools in the Mahoning Valley created specifically for children with autism, we are pleased to collaborate with community groups to offer a robust academic curriculum, vigorous extracurricular and co-curricular activities and additional support for each of our families as we move into our eighth decade of serving children,” Garchar says.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.