110619_MNS_lang_literacy Stephanie Johnson Hillary Shaw Emily Hertz Comer Yates

From left, Language and Literacy Gala co-chairs Stephanie Johnson, Hillary Shaw and Emily Hertz gather with Atlanta Speech School Executive Director Comer Yates.

The Atlanta Speech School, which helps children reach their potential through language and literacy, consists of four sub-schools for children from birth through sixth grade, including students who are deaf and hard of hearing, children who are dyslexic, those who are experiencing speech and language delays and intellectually curious traditional learners.

The Buckhead facility is also home to The Clinic, a therapeutic and academic clinic that provides audiology services for children and adults, pediatric occupational therapy as well as speech, language, learning and literacy services for children experiencing language-based academic difficulties.

The campus also houses the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy, whose singular aim is to provide an equal educational opportunity to every child, regardless of where they live. Rollins provides professional learning and coaches teachers throughout the state, and the Cox Campus extends the center’s mission online to individuals and organizations in all 50 states and 42 countries.

Though they all are under the school’s umbrella, they don’t often get together as one unit. But the school’s Language and Literacy Gala, set for Nov. 17 at the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead, unites it.

“I think it’s a unique opportunity for the entire school community at large to get together … and celebrate all the great work the school is doing,” said Emily Hertz, who is co-chairing this year’s event with Stephanie Johnson and Hillary Shaw. “… I think (Executive Director) Comer Yates’ whole philosophy is all about the wonderful community of the Atlanta Speech School.”

Said Shaw, “The gala stands out in my opinion because it’s one of only two (events) that annually brings together the entire speech school community. … The gala allows everyone to come together and celebrate as a community and thank the teachers and staff for making the Speech School what it is.”

Johnson added, “I’ve seen personally how it builds the foundation for language and literacy. I know this school has touched so many lives. You see current parents (and) former parents (there), because so many people have seen the school impact the lives of children.”

The gala will take place from 6:30 to 10 p.m. and will include a cocktail reception, silent and live auctions, dinner and dancing. Tickets start at $125.

Entering its 46th year, the gala is the longest continually running holiday event in Atlanta and the school’s largest annual fundraiser. It is hosted by the Atlanta Speech School Guild, the school’s volunteer and fundraising arm.

Over the last five years, the guild has donated over $1 million for the school’s need-based financial aid fund, with the majority coming from the gala. The guild has raised millions for the school since its inception 50 years ago, and those funds help ensure the school’s mission of never turning a child away because his or her family can’t afford the tuition.

A year after the gala celebrated its 45th year and the school’s 80th anniversary, it will honor the guild’s 50th anniversary. The guild founded the gala as a potluck dinner and fashion show at Neiman Marcus at Lenox Square in Buckhead and it’s grown from there. The organization’s lifetime members (those who pay a one-time fee to commit to volunteering for the guild for life) will be honored at the event.

The co-chairs said the school has made a tremendous difference in their children’s lives. Hertz’s daughter Elle, 3, attends the school.

“She’s only 3 but we’ve noticed tremendous interest in reading at an early age,” Hertz said. “She loves books, and the latest development is she can write her name. … I think the difference with the school itself is how they engage the children. With them it’s all about a two-way conversation and not talking at the children.”

Shaw’s oldest son, Wade Hyman, 7, attended the school and her youngest son, Mac Hyman, 4, is a current student.

“The thing that always jumps out to me with my kids is it’s really instilled a love of learning in them,” Shaw said. “They love school and are so excited to go every day. For all kids, that sets them up for success in life.”

Johnson’s daughter Colette, who turns 6 in December, attended the school and her son Thomas, 4, is a current student.

“As our oldest daughter she started in the (2-year-olds class), so it was a whole new experience for us sending her to preschool,” Johnson said. “It was the best feeling and she built this foundation for language, literacy and critical thinking. Every day she wanted to go to that school. Every day it just warms my heart. Now that she’s left the school, she’s so prepared.”

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://bit.ly/2NmH4u2.

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