June 22, 2016
Lubbock’s Scott Malouf, owner of Drest by Scott Malouf, visited Texas Tech University’s Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research Wednesday (June 22) to tour the building and meet the campers of Camp Burkhart, a weeklong day camp held annually for children and teens with autism spectrum disorder. Malouf funds the camp each year and serves on its advisory board. The camp provides structured enrichment opportunities while increasing competency in social interaction for those on the spectrum.
“This camp would not be possible if it weren’t for Mr. Malouf’s generous donation,” said Janice Magness, co-director of the Burkhart Center and director of the center’s Transition Academy. “Thanks to Mr. Malouf. The camps have become an annual tradition that students from the Lubbock area look forward to each summer.”
From vocational training to fitness, nutrition, social skills, and art, the high school Camp Burkhart serves as an opportunity for the campers to experience what it would be like for them if they attended the Transition Academy. The camp serves as a chance for current Transition Academy students to step up and be mentors and leaders to campers.
“How can you say no to this?” Malouf said. “I’ve known the Burkhart family for a long time, and this is such a special thing. The more I learn about the things going on at the Burkhart Center, it is just so impactful with what they are doing here for students with autism. In business, you get requests to help many causes, but you never really know how the donations help, but this is an area that looks at the human potential and we are just seeing great progress among these students while they are here at the camp and at the center. It something so fun to support.”
From the beginning to the end of the weeklong day camp, Magness said they are able to see such growth in the students. She said putting together students who have the same types of skills and abilities gives each of them strength and confidence. One of the joys of the camp is to see students meet and make new friends.
One student, Angel Coso, who is in the Transition Academy, said the other students here are his family when he is away from his mother and sister.
“Whenever we hear the reports of what is going on at the Burkhart Center, I just want to cry,” said Jere Lynn Burkhart, founder of the Burkhart Center with her husband Jim. “To see these kids changing and grow into adults who are getting jobs in the real world when at first they can’t even look you in the eye, speak or much less have a social interaction when they begin here at the Burkhart Center, it’s just amazing to see what all they can do after learning and training here at the center.”
Magness hopes this camp will continue to grow each year as the number of students at the center increases. Camp Burkhart dedicates a week to each of the three school ages. Last week, it welcomed middle school students; this week is for high school students; and on July 18-22, it will welcome 30 elementary students ages 4-11.
The Burkhart Center is dedicated to helping people with autism spectrum disorder and their families live full lives. The center offers education for teachers, research opportunities and events and resources for the ASD community. The Transition Academy provides students with a successful transition into higher education, vocational or other settings. Project CASE, funded by the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, helps students ages 18-25 who are interested in furthering their education beyond high school and exploring different career paths to meaningful employment.
The Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research is part of the College of Education and is the premier center in Lubbock for research, education and assistance for families affected by autism.
Research at the center covers three major aspects: developing strategies for the preparation of teachers to meet the needs of students, examining ways to develop parent support networks and preparing individuals with autism as they transition from school to adult services.
The Transition Academy, the center’s flagship program, is home to about 15 teenagers and young adults who have an autism spectrum disorder. They come to campus Monday through Friday to learn job and life skills, including how to live independently, and many have jobs through partnerships with campus and community organization.
The Burkhart Center is named for Jim and Jere Lynn Burkhart in honor of their grandson Collin.