When Nancy Gordon’s son was diagnosed with autism at age 2 in July of 2003, the Mercer Islander immediately knew that she was going to undertake something to help guide him and others along their life paths.
Gordon calls herself a “doer,” and four years later she and her husband, Matt, founded the Academy for Precision Learning (APL) on the Island.
“We realized long ago, resources were somewhat limited for him, in terms of schooling, in terms of what he will do after schooling,” Nancy said about Josh, who is now 21 and graduated from the Mercer Island School District’s Pathways Adult Transition Program last June. Josh attended APL, which is now located in the University District of Seattle, until he was 19 and learned side by side with his typically developing peers with autism.
Nearly two years ago, Nancy and Matt teamed up with a host of others to co-found another endeavor, Summit Community Center (SCC), which is slated to open its doors on March 1 for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The nonprofit will be centrally located at 1830 Broadway on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.
Nancy said that Summit’s paramount goal is to realize the potential of what young adults can offer to communities. The co-founding coterie wanted to construct a quality and fun place for Josh and others, said Nancy, adding, “Something that would continue to build his independence, continue to build his brain, truthfully, help him grow into a contributing citizen.”
Island resident Aly Burks of Pitch Your Peers (PYP) Seattle played an integral role in placing grant funding in SCC’s domain to help bring the vital space into existence.
Burks, who co-founded PYP Seattle with Islander Erin Krawiec in 2017, gave a first-place pitch for Summit, and the grant champion sent $151,500 the center’s way after a one-month discovery period that included a deep dive into three nonprofits. The other two PYP Seattle grant recipients this year are: Alimentando al Pueblo, a Latinx food bank ($67,750), and the Seattle Aquarium ($23,250).
Nancy said that PYP Seattle leaders and members are thoughtful about where they wish their philanthropic dollars to go.
“I pinpointed that I wanted to pitch an organization that served the IDD community, so I was put in touch with Nancy and Summit’s executive director Alicia Nathan last spring,” said Burks, who is also vice president and a member of PYP Seattle, a women’s collective giving group.
While thinking about which organization to pitch, Burks felt compelled to support a group that would serve an Island friend — who has two children with IDD due to a rare disease — and her family. The friend, who Burks has always admired and respected, pointed her in Nancy’s direction.
“For me, I think everyone deserves a sense of belonging and opportunities for meaningful enrichment,” said Burks, who added that PYP Seattle strives to incorporate inclusion and equity into every facet of its organization.