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Students rally for autism school

Basketball game raises funds, awareness

HUBBARD — For 17-year-old Preston Frost, leading Potential Development’s basketball team against players from Hubbard High School was one of the highlights of his senior year.

Frost, the team’s captain, is one of 14 seniors at the school for students on the autism spectrum who are scheduled to graduate this year.

“It has been a blessing to attend Potential Development,” Frost said just before Saturday’s varsity game began at Hubbard High School. “It has taught me to never give up and never to lose hope.”

Once he graduates, Frost plans to go to Youngstown State University to major in nursing and later go to seminary school to become a minister.

“It is important to let people know to keep on going,” he said.

Potential Development is a Pre-K through 12th-grade school for children on the autism spectrum, providing them a safe, structured educational environment with supportive services that give students the necessary skills and independence to lead a productive life, according to the school’s website.

Paul Garchar, CEO of Potential Development of Youngstown, described the Shoot for Change basketball game with Hubbard High School — in its second year — as an opportunity for the students to be out in front of the community to show off their basketball skills.

“It is a dream come true for their parents to see their children playing against other students,” said Garchar, who has been with the school for 24 years. “Our students work so hard in the classroom. It is good for them to play sports and have some fun.”

The program also recognizes the school’s pep club members.

John and Sandy Cashbaugh, whose son, Colin, will graduate this year, said he has attended Potential Development since the second grade.

“The school has helped him so much,” John Cashbaugh said.

“It has opened up his potential,” Sandy added. “He has come a long way.”

The couple said their only child wants to go to YSU and eventually open a grocery store. They said the annual basketball game at the high school is important to spread awareness of autism.

It was Hubbard High School sophomore Isabella Williams who started the Shoot for Change basketball game last year as part of her Community and Career Exploration project required of students.

Isabella’s cousin, Christoph Rhoads, was then a junior at Potential Development.

“I wanted to do something for them,” she said. “They had done so much for my cousin and others with autism.”

Prior to going to Potential Development, Isabella said school was hard for her cousin because he was not able to participate in sports and other activities. At Potential Development, Christoph’s world expanded because he was able to do things that previously were not available to him.

“School is supposed to be fun,” she said.

Isabella was surprised at the support the project received from the Hubbard community last year and, even more so, this year.

“Last year, we received and sold 30 gift baskets to help raise money for Potential Development. We had more than 60 this year,” she said.

While her goal has been to help those in the community with autism and their families, Isabella said the project has opened doors for herself.

“I learned that it is important for me to give to the community,” she said. “I want to be a special education teacher and I want to open my own business.”

Hubbard teacher Jacci DelMonte, who leads the Career and Community Exploration class, described this as being one of the largest undertakings led by a single student she has seen.

“I am hoping that Hubbard (High School) will continue supporting this,” she said.

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