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OUR STORY

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In 1997 Josephine Isenbergh gave birth to a beautiful daughter with Down Syndrome. Raising a child with a disability brings on a lot of challenges, but the biggest of these was fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the outside world, and fear of your child’s future. As a parent, figuring out what you want for your child and being their eternal advocate becomes a full-time job. Each transition that a child makes brings an awareness of yet another new challenge.

Within the school system, Josephine saw a deficit in services for individuals with disabilities. Students were placed in self-contained classrooms and weren’t given the opportunity to develop the same high school experiences as their peers. Thinking of her own daughter’s future, she voiced her concerns to a friend over lunch one day with, then, Hillsborough County school board member Candy Olsen. Candy asked a simple question that began it all, “Why don’t you just start your own charter school?”

Immediately Josephine began talking with other parents at the Act Project, a program providing individuals with disabilities drama therapy services. Through the Act Project, Josephine met parents Christine _________, Heather Rodriguez, and one of their therapists, Loretta Gallo-Lopez; future co-founder of the Project Focus Foundation. Discussions began about how to create a school that both provided what was lacking in the traditional school system for students with disabilities, and how to foster their development through drama therapy. After two years of hard work, Josephine and Loretta finally opened Focus Academy for the 2013 and 2014 school year with ____ students.

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As Elizabeth approached graduation, it soon became apparent the supports their students would need did not simply end with a high school diploma. So in 2016, the transition program was developed. Here recent high school graduates, up to 22 years old, would receive education on employability skills and receive hands-on experience in real work settings. The goal of this program was to provide students the skills needed in order to obtain gainful employment within their communities.

Growth continued to explode, and in 2021 the Foundation was able to open Focus Forward, an adult day training program in 2021. The program’s purpose is to not only increase the client's independence through life skills and social skills but also to create an environment for the clients to grow with like-minded peers of similar life experience and deepen their current network of supports. 

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