Trousdale School took a well-deserved turn in the community spotlight when it hosted the November Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce membership coffee.
The event maintained its usual agenda of bringing area business leaders together to meet and converse with each other.
But the morning turned out to be more attuned to business of the heart, as the coffee brought attention to the school’s efforts to help intellectually challenged adults gain the knowledge and confidence to enter the workforce.
“I think many of them came because they had never been here and wanted to see the school,” said Aaron Weatherford, Chamber membership director. “It’s incredible what they’ve done with this place and what they’re planning to do.”
Weatherford estimated there was a larger than normal attendance of more than 150 who socialized in the school’s gymnasium prior to a program performed by some of Trousdale’s students.
The school was designed to be a resource for adults 22 years of age or older with intellectual disabilities in assisting them with a continuing education after high school.
Trousdale founder Tom Johnson said hosting the Chamber event was “very exciting for us.”
“Having you see our facility here and meet some of our students makes this a great day,” Johnson said.
He said the school is in the process of being licensed by the state’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Trousdale has been in operation for eight years, but Johnson said it has taken a total of two decades of planning and work to get to its current level of performance.
“We have approximately 30 students who all work part time and are in classes the balance of the time,” Johnson said.
He said one-third of the student body is from Chattanooga, another third from Ooltewah and the remainder from Cleveland.
“The Bradley County Schools did such a fine job in helping educate my daughter; when she finished high school she wanted to continue her education,” Johnson said. “We had trouble finding a place and decided there was no reason there shouldn’t be one available to the students in this area.”
He said he could make a promise that the “students here are making strides.”
Johnson said the students are increasing their skills beyond an intellectual level that is considered unemployable.
“We are moving to a point where they are becoming taxpayers and not tax liabilities,” Johnson said. “I think we’ve made some real progress with that.”
A group of 12 students performed a choreographed musical interpretation that was an encore from the school’s musical this past summer.
The song, which was about overcoming life’s obstacles, brought the crowd to their feet with a thunderous ovation of appreciation for the students’ efforts.
Chamber members were also treated to tours of the facility by the school staff.
“As I look around I see a lot of friends and supporters and I realize that people who have helped us do this are part of the Chamber,” Johnson said. “I think that is evidence of what the Chamber is all about. They do good things and they support programs that make a difference in Cleveland and Bradley County.”
After the school’s presentation, Weatherford took the opportunity to remind members of upcoming opportunities that will be taking place as the Chamber approaches the holiday season.
He announced Saturday, Nov. 30, would be the “Shop Small” event which encourages shoppers to visit some of the smaller businesses in the area.
“Be sure to ‘buy local’ and go to those stores you may pass by or even those you frequent all the time,” Weatherford said.
He also gave notice about the next Womens’ Council meeting scheduled for noon Nov. 18 with the topic “Tips and Tricks for Holiday Decorating.”
The program will be led by Dwight Richardson, owner of Fenimore’s Floral Design Studio and be presented at the Chamber office located Village Green Town Center.
Weatherford also said the December membership coffee would be held at Life Care Centers of America on Dec. 10 at 8:30 a.m.