We are a STEM career-prep school in Phoenix, Arizona, that educates intelligent, positive, neurodivergent students of diverse backgrounds and means. Science Prep Academy teaches students to take responsibility for their lives, to lead with confidence, to act in a healthy manner.
In 2016, founder Kenneth Mims, M.Ed. created a FIRST LEGO team for Autistic students in partnership with the Autism Society of Metro Phoenix. While parents attended monthly workshops at the Paradise Valley Community Center, Mr. Mims would hold a robotics club to teach their children how to build and program a LEGO Mindstorm robot. He established the nation’s first FIRST LEGO team for autistic students and competed in a regional qualifying tournament. This robotics program gave Mr. Mims insight and guidance on effective teaching strategies and behavioral supports needed to achieve his vision of establishing a middle and high school with the mission to prepare Autistic students to transition into a STEM career.
Parents voiced their concerns and need to prepare their children with leadership, social and emotional skills to be successful as young adults, which included age-appropriate awareness in social settings, motivation for self-sufficiency, and the general transitioning concerns into adulthood and a career. Equipped with those concerns and understanding of the best practices for social impact business ventures from across the country, Science Prep Academy, a private STEM school, grades 6th-12th, for Neurodivergent students, was created on the 7th of August 2017. Through a partnership with the Salvation Army Kroc Community Center Science Prep Academy opened its doors to seven students in an 80-million dollar facility with 144,000 square feet of space. The success of Science Prep Academy inspired our organization to consider other ways to support young people with Autism.
In 2020, after its fifth year of operation, a decision was made by the board to pivot into an education research center called Neurodiversity Education Research Center (NERC). NERC is planning to be the premier education center for high-quality research-based practices to support Neurodivergent students and young adults transitioning into the STEM workforce. NERC will work to increase the successful participation of Neurodivergent students and young adults in the STEM workforce. Our partners include self-advocates, community organizations, researchers, educators, mental health professionals, curriculum developers, Universities, vocational education providers, and neurodivergent inclusive corporations.