Jacqari is a happy 9-year-old student at The Hope Institute Learning Academy (HILA) in Chicago. Like a lot of his friends and classmates, he loves to see, draw and learn about animals. But Jacqari has a type of autism that affects his speech and language skills, so expressing himself can be a challenge.
Like many parents of children with autism, Jacqari’s mom and dad struggled to find support after he was diagnosed at age three. He did well in his Head Start program, but regressed in kindergarten without autism-focused services.
That story changed in 2010 when Jacqari came to HILA. Attending both special needs and general education classes, Jacqari transitioned from speaking a few words at a time to full conversational sentences.
“He became a sponge in his first-grade classroom at HILA,” his mother, Rashaun, says. “He was exposed to so many new things and began making friends. Now, as a third grader, he’s grown so much more in terms of his communication, social and creative skills. We’re very pleased with his progress at HILA. ”
And, thanks to HILA’s innovative partnership with Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, Jacqari’s progress is even greater. Zoo educators visit the students regularly to teach them about wild animals and their habitats. Jacqari’s parents have noticed that he’s not only sharing what he’s learning at school, but he’s also applying that knowledge to other interests, particularly illustration and making videos. Rashaun says, “We may have a future Steven Spielberg on our hands.”
Your generous support of The Hope Institute makes hopeful futures possible for so many children – just like Jacqari – every day. Thank you for opening your heart to the needs of Hope’s children.