SAN MARCOS — Staff and clients of the Training Education & Research Institute, or TERI, had a lot to celebrate as they gathered for their annual fundraiser Dec. 6. The event was held on the site of their future campus at 555 Deer Springs Road. Construction of the school complex had been unanimously approved by the County Planning Commission just the day before.
TERI was founded in 1980 to educate developmentally and learning disabled children and adults. The bulk of their clients struggle with autism, but many have Down syndrome or other challenges. Some are deaf and blind. A few cannot even speak.
“We work with people who have really significant disabilities on a number of different levels,” TERI co-founder Krysti Dezonia said. “We’re constantly trying new practices and innovative procedures to try to find different strategies to support them … and ways for people to work with them. Really, it’s about life quality.”
Until now, the nonprofit organization has offered services in a constellation of small, separate campuses. The approved $35 million university will bring all of the services and TERI’s 600 clients into one property. New features will include an aquatic center with an Olympic-style swimming pool, a gymnasium and a therapeutic equestrian program.
“It means we’ll get out of light industrial place and the people that we serve will have outdoor places to recreate,” Dezonia said. “Much better than the all the concrete that we have right now.”
Having everything in one place will also make it easier for TERI to help families with disabled members coordinate with local and national universities, according to Development Director Laura White.
“It’s really going to be a neat collaboration with the community, and it’s going to be the first of its kind in the nation,” White said. “We’re really excited about that.”
Another cause for celebration was the success of the group’s recent private venture. Last year, San Diego County was tasked with the tough job of replanting thousands of acres of public land devastated by wildfires. Stacy Snyder, a special education teacher from Rancho Santa Fe, came up with the idea of using TERI clients to grow plants for sale to the county. She saw the program as an opportunity to add a horticultural dimension to the clients’ therapy while creating a new revenue source for the group.
“It was like a windfall,” Snyder said. “I have access to this gorgeous land. I have access to the clients who I love working with. And there’s a need!”
Dec. 5 marked not only the day the county approved the construction of the TERI campus but also the day the San Dieguito River Conservancy purchased all 1,500 of the TERI plants grown so far.
Snyder’s goal is to provide the bulk of the 200,000 plants the county will need to rehabilitate its scorched lands. Next year promises to be a busy one for TERI with orchards and trellises springing up as fast as the walls and sidewalks of their new campus.
Groundbreaking on the TERI campus is slated to begin in spring 2010. More information on TERI is available at www.teriinc.org or by calling (760) 721-1706.