A pharmaceutical company has awarded a $100,000 grant to Beacon College to expand its “Educating the Educators” outreach program, which provides educational tools for teachers of young students with learning disorders.

The downtown Leesburg campus is the only four-year accredited college in the nation for students with learning disabilities and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The grant funding came from Shire, a global biopharmaceutical company that specializes in treating ADHD.

“This is a significant grant; we were extremely excited,” Dr. John Hutchinson, Beacon president said Tuesday, while noting there’s potential for another $100,000 award when the funding ends in three years, which could result it becoming a $200,000 grant.

“We have done a lot of the work that this grant envisions, and now we can carry it to the next level,” Hutchinson said.

The college of 159 students has already provided outreach to 60 teachers in grades 5-12 in nine Florida counties, including Lake County, with its proven educational methods.

The grant will allow the college to be more visible on a national scale, while also serving teachers locally and statewide.

“We’re going to reach out at all levels,” Hutchinson said. “Beacon, I think, has an obligation in its mission to share with others how we can best teach these students with learning disabilities and ADHD, so this grant is a significant part of that outreach effort. It’s not just about teaching the students that are here, but taking what we know about the education of these students and broadening it to the larger world.”

The timing is perfect, he added, as learning disorders are “growing by leaps and bounds nationally.”

Dr. Shelly Chandler, vice-president of academic affairs, has found elementary and secondary-education teachers value learning Beacon’s teaching methods.

“There’s a lot of relief. They say, ‘This will work; I love this idea,'” Chandler said. “The feedback has been pretty exciting.”

Michael Skoien, vice president of Shire’s patient and customer excellence team, flew from Pennsylvania recently to visit Beacon College for the first time. He encouraged the college to apply for grant funding to expand its “Educating the Educators” program that Beacon launched nearly four years ago.

Skoien said in a statement: “Shire is excited about the work Beacon College is doing for students with learning differences. We are particularly pleased to support this unique education initiative because its potential positive impact on the lives of children, many of whom may also have ADHD.”

Andrew Marvin, a 2010 Beacon graduate, said the school’s education model is geared for students who “learn differently” and it helped him in other areas of his life, including overcoming shyness and finding his strengths. He now works as admissions counselor for the college.

“This is a school that has brought a lot of change in my life, and professionally, I’m very excited about being here while it grows,” he said. The college expects to have 185 students next fall, and is preparing for 250 students by 2015.

Many of Beacon’s graduates in its 21-year history have become successful classroom teachers, mental health counselors, graphic designers, entrepreneurs, marketing and sales professionals. The college said one of its graduates, told she would never read, successfully developed the skills to learn despite her disability. She went on to receive a master’s degree and was recently accepted into a PhD. program. She works as a mental health counselor with special-needs youths.

“Beacon is a place where your options are numerable,” Marvin said of the advice he tells new students. “It’s a good opportunity to take advantage of all the resources, all the teachers, all the individual activities that you can do.”

Bonnie Lefoley, marketing director for Beacon, added the college strives to be a valuable resource for 140 teachers in its “Educating Educators” program. Teachers in grades 5-12 interested in learning more about the program may call Dr. Chandler at 352-638-9710 or Dave Brown at 352-638-9721.

For more on grants and grant writing, visit Grant Pros.


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