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Celebrating 60 Years of Innovation

presented by the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation

The Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation, now The Emerge Center, was founded in 1960 by the Junior League and Quota Club in response to children who had gone deaf from the Rubella outbreak. Originally housed in 2 classrooms with only 2 full time staff, we are thriving today serving more than 1,800 individuals a year in our 26,000 square foot facility at The Emerge Center, and four classes at The Emerge School. With a staff of more than 90 and a comprehensive and robust service delivery model, we serve young children with a variety of developmental issues, in particular, autism. Read more about our 60-year history.

Thank you to our 60th Anniversary Committee

Winnie Byrd, Honorary Chair
In Memoriam (1925-2020)

Leslie and Scott Berg
Lori Bertman
Bobbie Carey
Alicia Coenen
Melissa DeGeneres
Cordell Haymon
Rachel Howell
Sugar McAdams
Adrienne Moore
George Noell, PhD
Nial Patel
Robert Pettit
Jan Ross
Steve Smith
Meg Sprunger
Kelli Bondy Troutman
Sue Turner
Roberta Carona Vicari, M.D.
Colleen and Stephen Waguespack

60th Anniversary Reunion

Our original reunion has been reimagined to be part of Emerge Fest on June 26 and 27! Learn more here.

BRSHF/Emerge Alumni

Join our Alumni Facebook Group!

We are searching high and low to bring together former alumni – clients or staff! We’ve created this group as a place where BRSHF/Emerge alumni can reconnect with old friends, and to hear your stories about your time at BRSHF/Emerge.

Digital Timeline

1960
1963
1965
1966
1968
1975
1976
1978
1980
2000
2003
2004
2008
2009
2011
2014
2016
2017
2018
2019

1960

After completing a community-needs assessment revealing the need for early childhood services for deaf and hard of hearing children younger than 6, the Junior League founded the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation with The Quota Club. Two full time staff and nearly 50 community volunteers and LSU students provided services within two classrooms at the Walnut Hills Elementary School.

1963

BRSHF moves to a larger space in University Terrace Elementary.

1965

Speech Pathologist Margaret Neely became Executive Director. A stutterer herself, she pioneered a “total language education,” insisting that deaf and hard of hearing children need speech language as well as sign language instruction.

1966

Under the leadership of board member Kevin Reilly, BRSHF secures state, federal and private funding to build on land acquired for $5,000 adjacent to University Terrace Elementary.

1968

Construction project costing $172,900 was completed. BRSHF moves to it’s new building on West Roosevelt Street on November 20, 1968.

1975

Congress passes the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandating that free, public special education be available in schools for children starting at age 3. BRSHF begins to add focus on children with language delays.

1976

BRSHF becomes a Capital Area United Way agency, whose support provides more than 35% of the organization’s budget.

1978

BRSHF employs a psychologist, social worker, physical therapist and occupational therapist. Outreach services are offered throughout the Baton Rouge community.

1980

BRSHF establishes an innovative group language preschool program for children with speech delays and autism.

2000

BRSHF begins accepting private insurance, in addition to accepting Medicaid and offering sliding-scale fees.

2003

Sertoma Club, Delta Zeta and The Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation fund Mobile Testing Unit, enabling our audiologist to perform free hearing screenings in the community.

2004

Pilot program for children with autism begins in partnership with Dr. George Noell, LSU Department of Psychology. Four children begin receiving Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidenced-based one-on-one therapy.

2008

Louisiana passes a law requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for autism diagnosis and therapy services.

2009

Strategic plan funded by The Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation sets the organization on a course for growth. BRSHF begins providing diagnoses for autism.

2011

With a skyrocketing demand for services, a $7 million capital campaign begins to build a larger center. Supporters include: The Albemarle Foundation, The Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation, The Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation, The Reilly Family, Mrs. Sue Turner and Matt and Sherri McKay.

2014

Organization re-brands as The Emerge Center and moves into its new, larger home, 7784 Innovation Park Drive. Staff size triples, eventually growing to 80+ full time staff and 40 part-time clinical students. Build out of Emerge’s unique multi-disciplinary care model in which multiple therapies are provided under one roof. Tuition-based kindergarten program launches.

2016

Study by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation identifies a need for educational options serving elementary-aged children with autism.

2017

East Baton Rouge Parish School Board unanimously approves Emerge’s application to form a public charter school.

2018

The Emerge Foundation launches, providing philanthropic support to The Emerge Center and The Emerge School. The Emerge School opens, serving 20 kindergarteners within two classrooms at the Center. Launch of a $2 million capital campaign to build the School on Emerge’s campus. Matt and Sherri McKay provide early support.

2019

The Emerge School breaks ground. Feeding therapy program at the Center officially launches.

BRSHF/Emerge Alumni

We are searching high and low to bring together former alumni – clients or staff! We’ve created this group as a place where BRSHF/Emerge alumni can reconnect with old friends, and to hear your stories about your time at BRSHF/Emerge.

60th Anniversary Alumni Reunion

Our original reunion has been reimagined to be part of Emerge Fest on June 26 and 27! Learn more here.