A letter from our founder, Mrs. Carol Olson:
Blue Ridge Educational Center was founded out of necessity in August of 2000 following the sudden demise of a homeschooling center that my 13-year-old autistic twin sons had been attending. That program had been my sons' first inclusion setting. Since autism was relatively rare during their early years, school programs to address their unique educational needs and behavioral challenges had not yet been developed.
After researching literature, participating in training opportunities, and collaborating with area universities, Warren County Schools, and other community resources, we developed a home-based program to serve them. In 1998, we discovered the homeschooling center in Front Royal that was run by a special education teacher. This was the first inclusion setting that had been available to my sons. With the assistance of aides who we provided, my sons were able to be educated with their peers. In the spring of 2000, the director suddenly left town and the center closed a short time later, leaving my sons and a few other students without a program. The only way for these students to continue their education in an environment that had met their needs was to start one based on this model It was named Blue Ridge Homeschool Tutoring Center and we had six students. The founding staff, in addition to myself as Director, included; Darlene Strother, Megan Steele and Paula Conrow. Ms. Steele and Ms. Conrow continue to teach at BREC and Ms. Strother retired in 2015.
In addition to teaching home-schooled students, we also tutored public and private school students after school and during the summer. Other needs also presented themselves such as achievement test monitoring, and tutoring for specific tests such as the G.E.D and military entrance exams. Our name was soon changed to Blue Ridge Educational Center to reflect the increasing variety of services and for the sake of brevity.
In 2003, we held our first graduation ceremony for 2 home-schooled students. Both of these students had struggled socially in regular schools, but flourished when they were able to receive individual attention in such a small environment. This has been the case with most of our students throughout these 18 years. We have had a total of 35 graduates since that first year who have participated in a intimate graduation ceremony at BREC, as well has having the opportunity to participate in ceremonies at their respective public schools.
In 2005 we became a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and in 2011, we became licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia as a Private Day School for Students with Disabilities. Our license has enabled us to serve any eligible students in the state of Virginia. We have served students in several neighboring counties since 2011.
Accepting students with a wide range of needs and abilities has always been consistent with our mission. We've been a creative resource for students who have needed a small, low stress environment with ample individual instruction and attention. In addition to working closely with the local schools, we also have developed partnerships with several community agencies that benefit students with disabilities and other at-risk youth. Examples include local counseling agencies, the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services, the Warren Coalition, and Special Olympics. Wrap-around services are often crucial to the success of our students.
The students at BREC continue to thrive in an environment with a dedicated, competent staff, supportive families, and community partnerships.
Carol Olson LCSW
Executive Director 2000-2017