Jillian Copeland, Ed '96 (MS), wanted to find a place where her adult son Nicol could live and thrive. Nicol has developmental disabilities, and she looked for housing that was affordable, inclusive, and welcoming. But few such places existed.
Copeland, who previously founded The Diener School in 2007 in North Bethesda, Maryland, for students with learning differences, decided to change that. First, she interviewed roughly 80 adults with disabilities to identify their needs. "One hundred percent of the people I interviewed wanted to live independently," Copeland says, including her son.
So, she started Main Street Connect, a nonprofit based in Rockville, Maryland, offering apartments, social activities, classes, pool parties, trips to the movies, and wellness programs for adults of all ages and abilities. Just don't call what they do "charity." Copeland says Main Street tries to give people with disabilities the rights everyone should have—affordable, inclusive, accessible housing; a supportive community; plenty of opportunities; and a space of belonging.
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