Spotlight — Raphael Academy Nola Family turns the spotlight this month on Raphael Academy, a school for children and young adults with special needs. As the mother of a child with special needs, Jacqueline Case grew concerned when the educational landscape in New Orleans shifted after Hurricane Katrina. Though a number of new schools opened, offering enrollment to children throughout the city, no seats were set aside for students with cognitive differences, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Down Syndrome. Case set out to right that wrong in 2012 by opening Raphael Academy, which educates children from fifth grade through young adulthood in a way that helps them to reach their full potential as individuals. The school, located in the Irish Channel, offers an adapted-Waldorf curriculum for students who need a more practice-oriented approach to academics, in an effort to teach practical life skills necessary for independent and semi-independent living. In addition to middle and high school programs, the school offers a transition class for students from ages 16 to 21, as well as a Young Adult Program for those who enter the school after the age of 18. The transition classroom focuses on targeted academics, core Waldorf curriculum such as history, math, literature and the arts, and, pre-vocational and life skills. Plus, it offers students vocational training on-site and in the neighborhood. The Guild of Raphael Village, which accepts students who are 18 years and older, focuses on continued life skills, including cooking, baking, handwork and gardening, and continued math and reading skills. The students also volunteer at local businesses such as Whole Foods, the Louisiana SPCA and the New Orleans Boulder Lounge to practice job skills in a real-world setting. In addition, the guild members operate the Celestial Café, which is open on Friday mornings. The school is continuing to grow, with plans to create an integrated urban village along Jackson Avenue at Rousseau Street supporting people with disabilities by the fall of 2018. Raphael Village, as it will be known, will provide a place where people with special needs can live, work, dine and attend cultural events. The first phase of the project will cost $2.5 million and yield an 8,000-square foot facility. For more information about Raphael Academy, visit raphaelacademy.org.