OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It's a 20-minute walk from St. John Paul II Newman Center near 72nd and Pacific Streets to the bus stop on 67th and Mercy Streets; a path untraveled for students like James Jensen Curtiss, who works at Children's Hospital & Medical Center. It's his first time learning how to use public transit in the city since his parents drive him to work.
Jensen Curtiss is an adult on the autism spectrum, living with his family and with a desire to "branch out on his own."
"Learn to be able to live alone, with other people. Learn to figure out basic needs and stuff like that: how to cook, how to clean, how to survive day-to-day," he said.
He'll do this as a student at the Prosper Academy. It's a two-year program brought to Omaha by Autism Action Partnership, a nonprofit that focuses on helping those with autism to live independently and to their full potential. Students got a glimpse of what they'll learn at an event today called "A Day in the Life."
Eventually, eight people will live at the Newman Center for two years. They'll take about 32 courses at Metropolitan Community College learning about independence.
"So, they have an opportunity to explore what it might be to live on their own, but in a space that is supportive of their needs and is safe for them to do that and fail safely," said Autism Action Partnership Program Director Emily Sutton.
Whether students want to eventually run their own household or gain better control of their health or finances, Sutton is excited to foster a nest for those eager to "fly."
"People with autism live in our community now. They have jobs, they have families, they go to school, they have hopes, they have dreams," Sutton said.
"I hope that people will become more accepting of people with Asperger's and accept that it's not a bad thing all the time, sometimes it's a very good thing," Jensen Curtiss said.
Prosper Academy students will move in on Aug. 17. There are also four openings left in the program. It costs about $60,000 per year, but some of the program's costs are subsidized thanks to donations.