I first stepped onto Morgan Autism Center’s campus almost 12 years ago, as a recommendation for possible placement of my then 10-year-old daughter Kate. My first impression, having viewed many special education classrooms, was that everyone was so HAPPY. Teachers, aides, students — everyone was smiling and seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Board chairwoman Nena Montgomery with her daughter, Kate.

Board chairwoman Nena Montgomery
with her daughter, Kate.

That impression has stayed with me throughout Kate’s 11 years there. When you focus on the possibilities, instead of the impossibilities, anything can happen. Shortly after starting, Kate was soon transformed with the help of a 3-wheel bike and lots of patience by the staff in Christine’s classroom. It made me want to give something back to an organization that was doing so much for so many.

That opportunity came two-and-a-half years ago when I was invited to join Morgan Autism Center’s Board of Directors. There was a leadership transition and I was asked to be the chairwoman to which I replied, “It would be an honor.” It has turned out to be the most rewarding experience of my life, particularly my non-profit life.

Everyone on the Board is completely dedicated to the success of Morgan Autism Center, understands the mission of the organization and is passionate about the work they do, whether they are on the communications, development, recruiting or finance committee. Executive Director Brad Boardman and several of his staff members attend our monthly board meetings, and we value their input. Sometimes there are heated discussions, but the mutual respect we have for each other always results in the best outcomes for the school and Adult Program, and those students and clients they serve.

We have celebrated several accomplishments this year that I would like to highlight. We have completed a redesign of the website, thanks to Christopher Escher, Shannon Carr and volunteer Rory Van Nest. We have launched our first Major Gifts Campaign, chaired by Bess Zientek, which is almost at 50 percent of its fundraising goal. These monies will be used to expand the Adult Program. We have expanded our Board to welcome two new members, including parent Jen Young and Ruben Zarate, who has played too many roles in the autism community to list here. This means we are almost at our goal of adding three new members this year. We have completed the most successful fundraising year in the history of Morgan Autism Center. This isn’t really due to the Board, but Daren Tuchman and her wing woman Jill Escher, parents who chaired Starry Starry Night, Morgan Autism Center’s annual gala celebration and fundraiser, and the amazing work of their committee in addition to the INVALUABLE help of Development Administrator Lisa Lemke.

So there is MUCH TO CELEBRATE! But there is also much work ahead. Last week, the Board held what I hope will become an annual retreat to focus on our yearly goals. We hope to communicate these to the larger community some time in the fall. In the meantime, if you see a Board member on campus, thank them for their hard work and dedication. It’s quite a group.

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth spotlight article in an ongoing series about our dynamic and diverse Board of Directors.