Having tailored the education curriculum for her son with autism for over 20 years, Sara Kellam Barron, ’73, had the experience and passion needed to co-found Ventures ATL, a nonprofit based in Atlanta, Ga. The organization’s mission is to provide meaningful, sustainable employment for adults on the autism spectrum.
“As our son approached adulthood, we recognized that employment is a major challenge for adults on the spectrum and developed an innovative model for tackling this challenge,” Barron said.
Ventures ATL operates a portfolio of in-demand businesses (data entry and product fulfillment) that fit the strengths of adults with autism such as attention to detail and an affinity for repetitive tasks. She and her husband, Chet Hurwitz, oversee the strategic planning and business development.
“I also work on developing relationships with community partners who refer employees to us as well as facilitate the onboarding process – interviewing, hiring, and training. I spend a lot of time going to meetings and being on conference calls. Effective, concise, and clear communication skills are a must,” Barron said.
Barron feels the Meredith Autism Program (MAP) is a strong example of a program that enables individuals to maximize their potential. “Because of MAP’s important work, persons with autism have a greater chance of meaningful, sustainable employment in the future.”
Barron remembers the College as an environment of encouragement and optimism, which gave her confidence she has carried into her working life.
“The women’s movement was getting off the ground while I was in college and beginning my career. One of the messages that I consistently heard from my professors at Meredith is, ‘You can do it,’” Barron said. “The glass ceiling was certainly around at that time, but cracking.”
For Barron, the rewards of managing Ventures ATL outweigh all challenges.
“What is transformative is to see the personal growth and professional development of our employees, which is derived from their having a meaningful job that fits their skills and interests,” Barron said. “I feel as if I have made a difference in this world − in my work and for my family. That is success for me.”