Pinellas moms and teachers form LiFT Academy school for kids with disabilities

SEMINOLE, Fla. - It's a half-day at The LiFT Academy in Seminole, and today the focus is on art, music and physical exercise. Morgan Mondello is especially excited today because tonight is prom.  Her first.  The school's first.

The LiFT Academy opened its doors this January, the creation of five moms who had kids with special needs. Kim Kurusovich is the principal and one of the school founders. "Actually I taught all their children. Two of the teachers, three of us taught together, and some needs just weren't being met and we felt like we needed a different format going. We had our deadline set for November and things just really started falling in place."

Like finding a church in Seminole that would house the school, and getting funds to start up.

Classes are capped at 15 students and class plans are tailored to each child's individual needs and the LiFT Academy has zero tolerance for bullying.

That makes a big difference to kids like Morgan. "My other school was considered a Catholic school environment and the teachers were supposed to help you, but I didn't feel like they supported you as much we needed them to."

Michael Wheeler is an 8th grader at the school.  "I've been picked on pretty much every other school I've been at since first grade. This is the first year where I haven't been picked on."

Michael has Asperger's, is bright and highly functioning.  Rachel Wheeler is his mother. "He's got about four years left of school and for him to be here in those years are very critical because it will help steer him in the right direction."

Not all the kids here have special needs.

Kurusovich says, "We have Kindergarten through 12th grade. We have those students who are typical learning students and students with neurodiversities. Those neurodiversities can include kids with autism, students with sensory processing disorders, learning disabilities, dyslexia, physical impairments."  Kurusovich says, "They are unique in their own personal way. We really feel like this is the best environment for them to show and enjoy their uniqueness."

The LiFT Academy is a not-for-profit independent day school that accepts McKay money for students with disabilities and special needs.  For more information, visit www.liftacademy.org .

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