Thrive Academy in Cape Coral expands

Reporter: Olivia Jean Writer: Elyssa Morataya
Published: Updated:

Thrive Academy, a school that puts extra care into educating and helping children, teens, and young adults with autism spectrum disorder, is significantly expanding services to the autism community in Cape Coral.

Meet 12-year-old Jonathan and his mother Gabrielle.

“When he first started speaking, I was over the moon. All I wanted to hear is my child say that he loved me my whole life,” said Gabrielle Trebisovsky, a parent of a student at Thrive. “You know, when he was growing up, all I wanted to hear was ‘I love you,’ I would say to him over and over again. So when he finally did it, I was so overwhelmed and so overjoyed. And other people are like, ‘Yeah, that’s great.’ But you know, my kid says he loves me all the time. But you don’t understand those milestones, and how hard it took and how much it took for us to get there.”

Johnathan struggled in school until he thrived at Thrive Academy.

“Lives that will be changed because we have the space now,” said Anjali Van Drie, the Vice President and Co-Founder of Family Initiative.

Thrive Academy’s journey began 3 years ago, and opened its doors 1 year ago.

“The idea of Thrive Academy for us was really the the ability to create a unique space that offered an excellent education opportunity for kids on the autism spectrum,” said David Brown, President and Co-Founder of Family Initiative. “I think just a recognition of sometimes certain students need a space that’s specifically designed to meet their needs,” said Brown.

4.5 acres of space, to be exact, including 3 buildings with approximately 20,000 square feet under air.

The campus is located in Cape Coral at the intersection of Chiquta Boulevard and Gleason Parkway.

Family Initiative’s current continuum of care includes early intervention and access to community services: Free Autism Screenings (ages 0-3), Baby & Me Group (ages 1-4), ASD Social Skills Playgroup (ages 4 and up), FI Creates (ages 6 and up), Teen Hangout Group (ages 13-19), and Young Adult Group (ages 20-30+). The organization also offers support for family members including a Sibling group and a Parent Support Group.

After a year of success and securing $5 million in funding, the Thrive Academy is moving to a better and better space.

“We can really have a campus here that’s specifically designed to meet the unique needs of individuals on the autism spectrum and offer that to the region,” said Brown. “And we couldn’t be more excited about it.”

Family initiative has curated a learning environment unlike no other.

With the campus expansion, more families are able to give their students with autism better opportunities, and it’s not just a unique teaching style for the kids; parents receive support, too.

“I’m very excited for my son to be able to grow here and transition easier for him. Because that’s all we want in our children’s lives, is for them to have an easy life.” said Trebisovsky.

Jonathan has a special talent. He’s good with computers.

“He wants to be a computer engineer, and he certainly has the skill to do that. So, how do we work with him now in middle school to give him what he needs? So when he graduates, that’s a viable option for him in our community to work as a computer engineer here in Lee County.” said Van Drie.

The goal? To give these kids the space to learn skills to secure a job and a bright future.

“He had D’s and F’s in the public school. Now he has A’s and B’s,” said Trebisovsky. “They’re amazing people for being able to think of even people that I don’t think are thought of very often with special needs because there’s really nothing around here that can help.”

From 12 students to over 30 in the Fall to 100 the following year, the Family initiative is making great strides with the Thrive Academy.

Families all across the county are moving to Cape Coral so their kids can get this kind of education. One family recently moved from Ohio.

Once the new campus is ready, we will make sure we stop and give you guys an update.

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