Fairmont grad aids autism fight

FAIRMONT – A Fairmont graduate is part of a trio of college students organizing “Project Speak,” a new non-profit effort supporting autism.

Sarah Bankson, a 2011 graduate of Fairmont High School, is in her final year at the University of Minnesota. She and two co-workers at Fraser, an autism intervention program in Minneapolis, are in the startup phase of their budding organization.

“All summer, we’ve been meeting and figuring out the process,” Bankson said. “We want to have the forms [for non-profit status] submitted by early September.”

In order for that to happen, Project Speak needs to raise $1,200 for initial costs.

An online fundraiser at www.indiegogo.com/projects/project-speak-2/x/8386313 has been established, and Bankson is requesting donations.

As of press time Monday, they had raised 72 percent, or $865, of their goal.

Contact information from donors will be collected, and when the non-profit status has been granted, those donors will be notified that their gifts are now tax-exempt.

Bankson and her co-founders work as play therapists at Fraser, where their friendship and passion for autism awareness and education began and grew.

“We’re all still in school or going back to school,” Bankson said.

She is working toward a degree in speech language hearing sciences, with the goal of becoming a speech language pathologist. The other two young women are pursuing master’s degrees in non-profit management and public health.

Once they achieve the non-profit status, their first goal is creation of an art show featuring collaborative work from children in the Fraser program. The art gallery and auction are just the beginning of several ideas the Project Speak founders have in mind.

“This really fills a gap that exists right now – a gap with education and support for families,” Bankson said.

She can be contacted by email at sarahbankson@projectspeak.org