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The Els Center of Excellence opens its doors to students

August 17, 2015

JUPITER, Fla.- The Els for Autism Foundation, founded by PGA TOUR player Ernie Els, today announced the official opening of the first two components of The Els Center of Excellence - The Lower School and The Els Center of Excellence Auditorium Building, which have been delivered on schedule.

The Center, being built in Jupiter, Fla., is set to be a game-changing resource in the field of autism; a disorder that now affects 1 in 68 children in the U.S., and has been created to serve the local, national and international autism communities.

The Lower School, known as ‘The Learning Center at The Els Center of Excellence,’ welcomed its first students through the doors this morning as children across Palm Beach County started the first day of the school year.

The Learning Center is a public charter school with capacity for up to 150 children from ages 3-14, and, in-line with the entire campus, has been designed to create a learning environment specifically suited to children on the spectrum. This includes features such as special LED lighting to mitigate behavioral issues that can be triggered by standard fluorescents; specially designed learning labs for life-skills training; and a sensory integration room to foster sensory and motor development. Interactive technology and observation rooms in the classrooms and therapy rooms across the Lower School will also provide an invaluable resource for applied research studies, allowing both resident and visiting experts to develop practical approaches to the wide range of challenges that individuals on the spectrum face everyday.

The delivery of the state-of-the-art Auditorium Building, specifically designed to help facilitate the dissemination and gathering of applied research findings and best practices, will now enable the Foundation to take its global outreach activities to the next level. The building includes a hi-tech, 300-seat auditorium equipped with video-conferencing technology, a green-room, 3 smaller video-conferencing suites and office space to house the Els for Autism Foundation development and programming staff, visiting scholars, professionals and researchers. Using the Center as its base Els for Autism is now able to develop and roll-out innovative, evidence-based programs focused on individuals with autism, their families and the professionals that work with them across the U.S. and internationally.

Groundbreaking took place for the Lower School and Auditorium Building in March 2014. These are the first components that are being delivered of a 26-acre campus that, once complete, will include an Upper School (with capacity for an additional 150 students ages 14-22), extensive sports and outdoor recreational facilities (including a gymnasium, swimming pool, golf practice facility, athletics field, play courts and sensory garden and pavilion), a cafeteria, a medical and professional services building and an adult services component.

Even before the dedicated buildings are in place the Center will bring together the critical elements of early intervention, education, sports and leisure, applied research, transition to adulthood, medical and professional services, and adult services all on one campus. Having all the essential elements on one campus, with the integrated programing and continuity of service that this allows, will be a tremendous resource for both the local and international autism community.

Ernie Els, Co-Founder of the Els for Autism Foundation, said: "This dream has been in the pipeline since 2009 so to have the kids walk through the doors this morning for the first time was literally a dream come true. It’s a special day and one that we have only reached thanks to the collective support of a huge number of individuals and organizations. Whether people have donated $1 or $1million everyone who has supported us has been a building block for this Center."

Liezl Els, Co-Founder of the Foundation, said: "From the beginning we knew we wanted the Center to be much more than a school, we wanted it to be a something that would positively impact the autism community far and wide. So, as well as getting the children settled into their new school, we are really looking forward to moving forward with our global outreach programs. We have a great team in place to do this and some exciting plans are already in development.”

She added: "On the construction side, our work is not finished. We've made great progress opening these two buildings, and we are now focused on raising the capital to build the remaining elements of our vision."

The Foundation’s fundraising campaign is now focused on raising the capital to complete the Upper School, the sports facilities, the medical and professional services building and the adult services component. For more information or to make a donation, please visit

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