Scott and Jillian Copeland with (from left) Ethan, 16; Danny, 22; Nicol, 18; and Jack, 21.
Potomac’s Jillian Copeland is a woman who provides innovative solutions for tough problems. She wanted her son Nicol to have the best possible education; thus, she founded and led The Diener School, a school serving special needs children from kindergarten through sixth grade. For the past three years, she has been anxious about what his future would look like. After extensive research, she and her husband Scott have launched a plan for an inspirational new development called Main Street. In their desire to seek the best possible life situation for their son, they hope to change the world for the better for young adults with disabilities, their families, and the community.
On Dec. 13, the Rockville Planning Commission passed approval for Main Street to be built. “This meeting was historic,” said Copeland. “It was a wonderful gathering of our local special needs community. We were deeply grateful to have the support of all members, friends and family. We have felt an incredible and palpable energy from the extraordinary support for our mission — and it feels great. Thanks to everyone for helping our dream of Main Street become a reality.”
The statistics tell the story: More than 500,000 young adults with autism will enter adulthood in the next decade. Fifty thousand young adults with disabilities will graduate from high school each year. Seventy-five percent of these young adults live with family members, 20 percent who are over 60 years of age. Nearly one in three adults is disconnected with no community participation in the past year. In the State of Maryland, 6,924 adults are currently waiting for daily living supports from the Developmental Disabilities Administration.
“Main Street will be an inclusive community where adults with and without disabilities will thrive,” said Copeland. “Main Street’s philosophy is ‘multi-age, multi-stage’; a setting that bridges abilities, ages and economics and fosters a culture of inclusion. What makes Main Street different from other housing projects for adults with disabilities is this is a community-focused model. It will be a mix of different ages and abilities to create organic, meaningful interactions and opportunities that inspire the pathways to friendship and independence. Enriching on-site activities will remove the physical barriers often associated with group homes.”
The 2020 completion plans for Main Street reveal a 70-apartment complex located in the heart of Rockville Towne Center. Twenty-five percent of the units will be designed and designated for adults with disabilities. The first floor of the building will house a large comfortable lounge, game rooms, wellness center, classrooms, kitchen, computer lab, cafe and more. Main Street is located within walking distance of public transportation, restaurants, the library, movie theatres, shopping and multiple activities.
The Copeland’s vision is long-range and innovative, nurturing the whole person as he or she grows and becomes more and more independent. Main Street’s core values are: Live, learn, play, work and thrive. Thus, not only will Main Street provide the apartments and supports for independent and affordable living but it will meet its core values through innovation and thoughtful planning. When a young adult moves into his or her space, the following will be provided: Partnerships with local universities and organizations to offer social, educational and therapeutic programming; gathering rooms in the building to provide space for meeting friends and joining an array of planned activities; flexible, affordable spaces for nonprofits and resource-oriented organizations to access Main Street residents and the growing Rockville community; and vocational supports — from job coaching to ride shares — to provide residents the tools they need for meaningful employment. An attached neighborhood coffee shop will offer employment opportunities while supporting the caffeine habits of Rockville’s public and private sectors.
The special needs community is optimistic about the inclusive and innovative new residence for their children and others. Ellen Jennings said, “Main Street represents hope — having normalcy, knowing that my child is around his friends and peers in a safe place — and that he has a path for life. I feel happy knowing he will be living independently. It’s going to be great and we are all going to help make it happen.”
Joyce and Nelson Migdal said, “The stars are aligned to make this a go. We have all been aspiring, dreaming and hoping that something like this would become a reality — and Main Street is the answer to our prayers.”
Nicol Copeland will be going from the Ivymount School to Riverview School in Cape Cod for the next few years. He told his mom, “I am sad to be going to Riverdale — but happy because I know once I leave there, I will have Main Street as my new home.”
To learn more about Main Street, visit www.mainstreetconnect.org.