Our guest speaker last week was Rachelle Vartanian, Founder, and Executive Direction of Living and Learning Enrichment Center located in Northville MI...
Many of us have dreams that we immediately forget as our alarm clock beckons us to arise to face the new day. Some of us remember our dream but dismiss it as nothing more than a foolish dream. A few of us like the dream so much that we try to turn that dream into a vision until we give up thinking it is too big, and undoable, and we throw the dream into the mental trash can.
THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM
In the movie “The Man from La Mancha,“ the lead character, Don Quixote sang a song entitled “The Impossible Dream." A few of the lyrics describe Rachelle, "To dream the impossible dream, and to run where the brave dare not go.”
Rachelle’s youngest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism. Rachelle noticed there were few programs available to enhance social skills and social interaction for teens and young adults with autism or related challenges. She began her Living and Learning Center humbly with a small rental space off the beaten path in downtown Northville. She offered classes on social skills and fun activities to her clients. She knew there was a greater need, and she could not meet that need in her current location so she sold her house in Livonia, quit her job, and expanded the center to attract more clients and expand the offering of services to her clients. That was her vision.
AGAINST ALL ODDS
Rachelle noticed the Don Massey estate on the corner of 8 Mile and Griswold in Northville was for sale, the asking price was $2.9 million. She envisioned how the building and property could make her dream come true by offering programs such as Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis, Social Skills Groups, Summer Camps, Job Skills & Vocational Training Programs, and Farming and Agricultural Experiences, to name a few. The buildings on the property are large enough to expand her client base. She took to raising the money with her contagious enthusiasm. She bought the building a few years ago. Rachelle and her ever-growing staff have been going like gangbusters to bring that impossible dream to fruition. Today, the Living and Learning Enrichment Center is the gold standard for equipping people who have autism with the skills to become contributing members of society. And it all started with one fiercely dedicated lady’s dream.
Thank you, Rachelle, for sharing your inspiring story with the Livonia AM Rotary Club.