Emerald Coast Autism Center breaks ground on second facility in Niceville

On June 8, 2022, starting at 5pm, the 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 in Niceville, Florida. 

  • This second facility will provide a safe and structured learning environment for the nonprofit’s Transition to Work program and its academic classrooms.

The new building plans include a 20,000-square-foot building connected to the current facility on the Niceville campus of Northwest Florida State College. This new building will host the Transition to Work program, a pre-vocational program through the Florida Department of Education in partnership with Northwest Florida State College designed to teach older students job skills for future employment. 

Northwest Florida State College partnered with the nonprofit and the generous support of Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. The new building will in addition expand the nonprofit’s academic classrooms.

“We are so excited for this next phase of Emerald Coast Learning Center! 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,” says Heidi Blalock, the CEO of the Emerald Coast Autism Center.

The Emerald Coast Learning Center has grown from five students to 80 full and part-time students since their inception in 2009. The Center 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 so much more. 

Transition to Work students will continue practicing job skills in-house before heading out on campus or other community partner job sites. Emerald Coast Learning Center will also house several academic classrooms for students on track to graduate from the Emerald Coast Learning Center and continue with their education at other local public or private schools.

Currently, the students who work on campus work 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).

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