Janet Salazar and Crystal Pinson both shared a similar experience: their children greatly enjoyed school but they had special needs that needed to be addressed in a different way. Their children were enrolled in the same special education class in public school and they needed more help. Both Janet and Crystal certainly understood and had empathy for the pressures and demands that teachers face, but they also wanted to find a better fit for their children.
“Our experience in public school was very good,” Janet said. “But we both agreed that our kids needed more: more individualized instruction, more attention to behaviors and social skills, and more development in different areas.”
They partnered in a quest to find resources for their children who needed an extra boost.
Janet and Crystal started looking for private schools that might have the resources their children needed to address their individual challenges. Upon identifying schools in the area, Janet and Crystal found lots of great choices, but every school was missing one factor—some excellent options were just too far from their homes, for example, while others catered well to their children’s special needs but the student – teacher ratios were too high.
After thinking about ways that they could empower their children through education, Janet and Crystal dreamed the biggest dream of all: they decided to open their very own not-for-profit school. They pooled their resources, started making epic to-do lists, and recruited people to support their efforts. After months of building their team, Cornerstone Achievement Center was born.
One of the biggest reasons Janet and Crystal ultimately decided to move forward with pursuing the dream of opening a school was the realization that other families faced the same challenge of finding the right educational institution for their child.
“We thought, well, if we are thinking this, there’s got to be other families in the same situation as us,” Janet said. “And sure enough, there are.”
Cornerstone serves children with special needs in elementary and middle school, and each child is assessed individually before enrolling to ensure that the school can cater to the child. In addition to typical age-appropriate curriculum, there is plenty of time devoted to sensory therapy and exploration. The children are offered opportunities to participate in lots of different activities and excursions as well. Above all, the staff at Cornerstone strives to set the school apart in two key ways, according to Crystal.
“We pride ourselves on having a low student-to-teacher ratio, which we found to be really important for our kids,” Crystal said. “We also incorporate a faith-based element, which differentiates us from most educational institutions working with children with special needs.”
Cornerstone is staffed with amazing teachers, including Grace Cook, who has a Master’s in Special Education with emphases in Behavioral Analysis and Autism Intervention. She loves the children that Cornerstone serves, citing them as a reason that the school is so unique.
“The children have so much potential,” Grace said. “They do amazing things every day, and they have so much talent. It’s a privilege to work with them and be a part of their lives.” In addition to Grace, the Cornerstone teaching team includes Katelyn Barbier-Mueller and Abigail Fletcher. It is a team that Crystal, Janet, and the parents have great confidence in.
Both Janet and Crystal love living and working in the city of Dallas. They both know that Cornerstone is, in part, such a great success because of the community that has embraced the educators and the students.
“When we first began talking about starting this venture, we knew we had the huge advantage of being in a city where stepping out and doing what you feel called to do is met with encouragement and tangible support,” Janet said. “Dallas is a city of dreamers and doers. We are so grateful that we can call it home.”
Cornerstone often has a need for volunteers to come help during the school day, and projects range from the organizational variety to helping out in the classroom. To find out how you can get involved in the good work Cornerstone is doing, visit their volunteer page!
If you know someone who is Doing Good in Dallas, we’d love to hear about it! Share their story with us.