Reimagining Education

CEAM Announces Passport to the Central West End, 2011


ST. LOUIS, March 10, 2011 — Free appetizers at restaurants, invitations to special events and a percentage off various items at retailers are all available for just $25 with the purchase of a “Passport to the Central West End.” The passport is valid at participating commercial locations in the Central West End (CWE) from April 1-10, 2011 as part of Autism Awareness Month.

All proceeds from sales of the passports will benefit the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri’s (CEAM) innovative Financial Assistance and Parent Training Program, which is being launched later this year. The not-for-profit CEAM is the state’s leading education reform organization dedicated to policy that encourages improved and expanded learning opportunities for all children.

Merchants throughout the CWE are participating in the 10-day promotion. Each merchant involved will offer an enticement to the passport buyer, such as an appetizer, a tasting, a special gift or a percentage off the price of an item in their store. Selected outlets may also choose to dedicate a percentage of sales generated during the promotion to CEAM.

“Spring is a great time to enjoy the many entertainment and shopping offerings of the Central West End,” said Laura Slay, president and executive director of CEAM. “The season’s fashions are just arriving, along with new wines and menu items. CEAM’s ‘Passport to the Central West End’ offers the added incentive of generating funds for a one-of-a-kind tuition scholarship program for families with special-needs children.”

CEAM’s mission is to support parents of special learners so they can make the best choices for their children. The new financial assistance and parent training program has been created for families of children who are exceptional learners, pairing special education-related financial assistance with the best privately-funded, solutions-oriented, parent-training program available.

“When parents are told that their child is learning disabled, they face a number of critical choices,” said Slay. “They need a crash course in the diagnoses, good advice on what educational requirements and rights that child has, and ongoing training on how to ensure that their child has access to the best, most appropriate education. The process is overwhelming. CEAM’s program uniquely provides two of the most requested services: ongoing advocacy support and tuition and therapy assistance.”

CEAM will place more special-needs students in schools that are equipped to handle each student’s unique disability, assist parents with navigating a complex special needs education system and the Individualized Education Plan process, and also train them to advocate for the education needs of their children.

No other program in the St. Louis area pairs educational scholarships with special needs learners for tuition and therapies with this type of training. St. Louis has more than 30,000 special-needs learners, many of whom do not learn in a typical classroom setting. Statistics show that the lifetime cost of caring for an individual with autism can be $3-$5 million.

Numbers for families with special-needs children are sobering as well. Bankruptcy rates are higher than the national average and the national divorce rate is an astonishing 80 percent for parents of children with autism, according to the National Autism Association.

To sign up for a “Passport to the Central West End,” click here.

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