MDC Alum Launches School for Children with AutismDorinda Ribadeo, class of ’87

I AM MDCLike most new parents, Dorinda Ribadeo, ’87, found new meaning when she became a mother. Her focus quickly turned to her daughter and making sure she’d have every opportunity that life had to offer.

But when an autism diagnosis threatened that vision, Ribadeo had for her then two-year-old, she knew she had to do something. “The doctors told me she would never have a conversation with me, she will never have friends or be able to live independently,” Ribadeo said.

Frustrated with the lack of support and minimal resources, Ribadeo was faced with a decision: she could move, or she could launch her own initiative. She chose the latter.

In 2004, Ribadeo started the Angels Reach Foundation, a nonprofit that helps children with a range of abilities maximize their learning potential. Today, the foundation has grown to include a clinical site with 20 clients, as well as a community resource center servicing more than 150 families. Its newest site opened in Miami Lakes; a grand opening following COVID-19 safe micro-classrooms is on track for summer 2021. In response to COVID-19 protocols and student need, Angels Reach launched the “Your School Your Way” program, which lets parents select their child’s learning time and location: onsite, self-pace from home or in-home with supports.

“I see miracles happen every day,” Ribadeo said. “Children who were once non-verbal now can speak to their peers while other teens who were verbal but aggressive are now mentors to other students.”

The proud MDC alumna, who recently authored her first book set to publish later this year, said the special education courses she took while attending the College set the groundwork for the Angel Reach Foundation. Her staff of 60 includes many MDC students and alumni. “I earned my degree from a college that is funded by the community and it’s important for me to give back to those who made it all possible.”

Thanks to the Angels Reach Foundation, Ribadeo’s daughter has also progressed. She is preparing for high school graduation and plans to attend MDC. “This work is challenging and takes an entire village,” Ribadeo said. “But it is very rewarding.”

SharkTalk by MDC Office of Alumni Relations showcases stories of MDC alumni and their accomplishments.

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Written by Janee’ Brown, MDC Alumni Relations Officer