Over 33 years ago, five families living in the Greater Nashville area realized that the type of education and intervention they dreamed of for their children with special needs simply wasn’t available through conventional options. Their children required a level of attention and adaptive care that just couldn’t be met by most daycares and preschools in Middle Tennessee.
What’s more, even with quality care, these parents had to constantly leave work and pull their children out of school in order to drive them to multiple therapy sessions, sessions which were necessary to significantly improve their abilities and quality of life.
At the time, inclusive education was simply not at the forefront of educational interests. A truly inclusive model of education, like the one these families dreamed of, was an almost radical idea, and anyone who attempted to undertake it became a pioneer.
Not wanting to sacrifice the quality of care and educational opportunities for their children regardless of ability, these five families and one speech therapist got together and conceived an environment that would be equipped to provide complete education and daily care for children of all levels of abilities and needs. A place where children with special needs could attend preschool in a classroom alongside their typically-developing peers, and also receive their necessary therapies, be that in a classroom setting or one-on-one.
With nothing but that basic model in mind, High Hopes was born.
High Hopes is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. This means that any funds received during the year are funneled directly back into the business, and donations of all amounts help us meet our mission of serving the community.
We have four major departments within the organization: the preschool, the clinic, administration, and development. There are directors over every department. Melanie Anderson heads up the preschool and Kristin Garner the clinic, while Cheryl Dean runs the development side of things. Over it all is Gail Powell, our Executive Director.
Behind it all is our governing Board of Directors. Comprised of 16 members, meeting once every other month, the Board is responsible for the mission and governance of the organization. They set long-term goals and objectives, make sure that all decisions are true to our mission, and ensure that High Hopes stays organizationally sound and fiscally responsible.
An Advisory Board of 19 people appointed by the Board of Directors serves to advise, provide feedback, and make suggestions and recommendations to the Board itself. These 19 people are committed to and passionate about High Hopes and its mission, and serve together with members of the Board of Directors on committees to accomplish specific goals and tasks. A few of these committees include Marketing, Fund Development, and Strategic Planning committees.
In addition to our board and our staff, hundreds of volunteers dedicate their time throughout the year to help behind the scenes, provide fun activities for kiddos, or facilitate events that may be off-site or outside business hours. These volunteers are instrumental to our mission, and we cannot thank them enough for the hours they have donated to these children and their families.
Expansion & Mission
But the side of High Hopes that is purely business barely scratches the surface of what High Hopes truly is.
As it turned out, the special model forged by those five founding families met a need that went far beyond their own. Today, having pulled through some tough times and enjoyed some prosperous ones too, High Hopes is now the strongest it’s ever been in terms of staffing, enrollment, fiscal matters, and community involvement.
Because of the rapid recent growth and interest in our services, High Hopes is still growing to meet the needs of the community it serves. With an expansion underway that will effectively double the square footage of our current facility, we hope to be able to serve many more families in our community in the near future!
We are also now developing fun periodic events as part of our Family Support Services program, such as the highly successful and very fun Feeding Therapy Camp, Inclusive Dance Camp, Drama Therapy Club, and Handwriting Without Tears Workshops that have already taken place, with more on the way!
We remain deeply committed to our mission to equip children, youth, and their families with the skills necessary to achieve success through education, therapeutic services, and loving support.
The High Hopes Inclusive Preschool is comprised of eight classrooms filled with children from six weeks of age to the Pre-Kindergarten level. From the tiny “Ladybugs” to the Pre-K “Grasshoppers,” children find themselves in a diverse and challenging environment alongside peers of all ability levels, learning from and about one another every day.
The preschool doors are open from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Friday. Varied attendance options are available to preschool parents within those regular operating hours, to best accommodate work schedules, therapy appointments, medical regimens, and many other challenges a parent may face when considering preschool options.
The High Hopes Preschool is assessed yearly by the STARS program, the state of Tennessee’s quality assurance program for all childcare centers and preschools. Tying into the three stars on our state flag, the STARS program awards up to three stars based on factors such as staff qualifications, curriculum, educational environment, and day-to-day procedures and activities. Since the inception of the program, the High Hopes Inclusive Preschool has achieved a three-star rating in every consecutive yearly assessment.
Within the preschool, High Hopes maintains a 60% to 40% ratio of children who are typically developing to those with diagnosed special needs. Because we believe in ensuring that each child receives an appropriate level of care and attention throughout the day, our teacher-student ratios are kept smaller than the state requires in every classroom.
In fact, the preschool employs about 40% more teaching staff than is required by the state of Tennessee for a school of its size. This provides teachers with the support they need to be able to provide the optimum level of care and education to every child in their class, regardless of ability level.
Twice a year, children are evaluated using the Brigance Early Childhood Screens. The results provide a guide as curriculum is developed and adapted, to ensure the best success of each child enrolled. Older students are also assessed with a Kindergarten readiness test.
When necessary, these scores are used together with IPP (Individualized Program Plan) meetings, in which therapists, teachers, and parents/guardians meet to establish goals and strategies to enhance a specific child’s educational experience. These goals and strategies are maintained in a child’s day-to-day classroom activities, and include regular close communication between teachers and their students’ families and caregivers.
All High Hopes classrooms utilize a multi-sensory approach to learning, incorporating sensory activities daily. In regards to discipline, first and foremost, a positive-praise theme is used in order to foster good behavior within the classroom. Redirection is also used consistently in our classrooms. If behavior issues persist, the teachers work closely with the parents and our therapy staff to create an individualized behavior management/modification plan for the child.
The curriculum used in every classroom is literacy-based and aligns with the Tennessee Early Learning Developmental Standards (TN-ELDS). Low student-to-teacher ratios and broad classroom-wide goals allow for much personalized development during the school day.
With these tools in hand, the High Hopes Preschool is committed to preparing each child on its roster as completely as possible for the not-so-distant day when they enter the school system. Year after year, our graduates who are tested perform well above average on nationally-normed kindergarten-readiness tests.
Above all, the staff of the High Hopes Preschool floods its hallways with love every day. Every person on the preschool team is here primarily because they love these kids. The children’s success is our highest goal, and we achieve that success through caring relationships with each child and their family. Even on the toughest days, we aim to provide a loving, safe environment for every student who walks through our doors.
The High Hopes Pediatric Therapy Clinic welcomes children and youth, birth through age 21, into an enjoyable, kid-friendly environment where therapy is both fun and rewarding! With appointments starting as early as 7:30 AM and continuing until the front doors lock at 6:00 PM, our outpatient clinic serves over 130 children on the average day.
The clinic provides outpatient physical, occupational, speech, and feeding therapy services, as well as therapy for children who attend the High Hopes Inclusive Preschool.
When a child comes to High Hopes for therapy, an evaluation is conducted to identify strengths, deficits, and caregiver concerns. Results of the assessment are discussed with the caregivers and a plan of care with functional goals is established.
Therapeutic exercises in pediatrics typically take the form of structured play activities to accomplish specific objectives, while maintaining a child's attention and motivation. Our treatment plan for each child also includes parent instruction and consultation with a child's team of professionals to help each child reach their full potential.
Because High Hopes offers so many therapy options, it is easy for therapists to work cooperatively and meet your child's needs, all in one convenient location. Our state-of-the-art clinic is comprised of large rooms for strength-training, sensory and other activities, as well as individual treatment rooms with parent observation windows.
Built for us by the Preds Foundation (a non-profit associated with Nashville’s NHL hockey team, 2017’s West Conference champs The Nashville Predators), Gnash’s Playhouse is a favorite with all kiddos, big and small. Access to the playgrounds and to specialized equipment enhances therapy programs and adds fun experiences for the children.
While the fun environment and playful atmosphere are definite draws to the clinic, the real jewel of the clinic is the expert and incredibly caring staff. Our therapists have an average of over 14 years of pediatric experience and they have an incredible passion for helping children and families. The professionals in our therapy clinic specialize in facilitating success in activities that are crucial to childhood, as a foundation for lifelong success and independence.
This Is High Hopes
It is the marriage of an Inclusive Preschool and a Pediatric Therapy Clinic at one location that makes High Hopes Development Center truly unique and tremendously effective. High Hopes is the only organization to incorporate this unique model in Williamson County, and is one of few like it in the nation.
We are what our name suggests. We are a collection of experienced, driven individuals, working together to offer High Hopes to the families and children of our community.