The Achievement Center of Texas was started by a group of parents frustrated by their inability to find suitable day care for their children with disabilities. Beginning with a dream and $800 raised from a parking lot sale, this group formed their own day care center. The Reverend Michael Haynes, father of a child with disabilities, offered this group the use of the Sunday School building of the St. Paul United Methodist Church. The center was housed at St. Paul’s for 16 years.
The center continued to grow. Originally an after school and summer program, it soon became necessary for the center to open its doors to younger preschool children. Just a year later, parents of older students who had already graduated from high school were seeking services. In 1990 the program went full time. In 1992 the center (then called the Garland Association for Retarded Children) was named “Best of Texas” by the Corporate Child Development Fund in Austin. Due to the very different disabilities of the students and the fact that not all the students were children, the current Director, Marilynne Serie changed the name of the center to the Achievement Center of Texas. By 1993 it was evident that the Achievement Center had outgrown its original home at St. Paul’s and in order to expand services to more students, it would have to seek a larger home. In 1993 the Mayor of the City of Garland, Bob Smith, offered the Achievement Center space at Granger Recreation Center where the center held classes for 9 years. Enrollment doubled by the middle of the second year at Granger.
Then after 23 years in service and a student population of 65, the Achievement Center once again faced needing more space and began a campaign to build a home of their own. With donations from the Meadows, Hoblitzelle, Hillcrest (founded by Mrs. W. W. Caruth, Sr.), Eugene Straus, Mabee and Constantin Foundations, the Nannie Hogan Boyd Trust, a gym furnished by the Dallas Mavericks Foundation, clerestory windows by the Dallas Foundation and a personal gift from Mary Kathryn Doolin to build a home economics suite, a personal donation from Dr. and Mrs. Chris Stewart to build a therapy room, and land donated by Dr. Grace E. Smart, the Achievement Center of Texas moved into its new facility at 2950 North Shiloh Road in Garland on February 3, 2003. Now, after celebrating our 35th birthday on October 12th, 2012, the Achievement Center currently serves approximately 140 students daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Achievement Center loves their facility and is grateful to all who made this possible.
The new facility offers students greater opportunities to develop their strengths and talents, make and maintain friendships, use up-to-date equipment and modern technology, including a full library/computer room, life skills lab and nurses station. The home economics suite (life skills lab) will help students learn to make a light meal, use a washer, dryer, dishwasher, microwave, make a bed, fold clothes, use a vacuum and many other functional living skills needed to develop self confidence and greater independence.
Sensory experiences include touch, movement, body awareness,sight, sound and the pull of gravity. The process of the brain organizing and interpreting this information is called sensory integration. Sensory integration provides a crucial foundation for later, more complex learning and behavior.
Recently, with a grant from Hoblitzelle Foundation, the Achievement Center rebuilt their therapy room into a sensory motor training lab. The training lab has unique equipment to help the students identify and work toward overcoming their sensory deficiencies. Though this room has many awesome pieces of equipment, the most unique piece of equipment and a favorite of the students is the sound beam, a device which allows students to create a concert with just the movement of their head or arms or feet. There also is a vestibular swing with a variety of attachments to help students develop reflexes, balance, spatial relationships and much more. Other wonderful and unique pieces of equipment are multi strands of light that students can wrap themselves up in, a projector for soothing moving scenes projected onto white boards, an amazing sound and color machine and a whole cabinet full of sensory activities to offer students many oppor-tunities to build the sensory pathways needed to function adequately in life. Staff loves the equipment as much as the students and reported that they cried when seeing how much the students enjoyed this sensory motor lab experience.
TOWN NORTH OPTIMIST CLUB
There are many people, who through their love and support have contributed to the success of the Achievement Center. One very special organization is the Town North Optimist Club. We are very grateful for all their wonderful support these past 11 years. They have provided additional security cameras, fencing around our entire building, two 61 inch monitors for security cameras and for student training “including Xbox 360 with connect for physical fitness and fun.” They have been a constant support providing computers for the computer lab, computer networking, fire escape route ramp building, and 11 years of breakfasts with Santa at Christmastime.