SARASOTA, Fla. — The Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Academy, a nonprofit that strives to develop the full potential of students with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities, recently hired Donna Leigh-Estes as its new administrative director.
Leigh-Estes brings over 15 years of experience in the nonprofit and mental health fields to the nonprofit. MBJ Group, a talent management company, led ABA Academy’s search for the position.
In her role, Leigh-Estes will assist the clinical director and operations director with the strategic leadership and management of the Academy, help define key goals and develop and implement innovative methods to ensure the provision of adequate and appropriate services. She will also be tasked with ensuring compliance with all state and federal regulations, licensure and accreditation while maintaining the ABA Academy’s high-quality service.
“Donna brings excellent experience to our team,” said Shelly Swift, executive director of ABA Academy. “She has a passion for helping others that came through in her interviews, and her combination of expertise and compassion will be a tremendous asset to our special needs school. We feel that she will be instrumental in helping us build a strong foundation of our nonprofit and making our mission more visible within the Sarasota community.”
Prior to joining ABA Academy, she served as the director of community education, outreach, training and grants for NAMI Rochester, an independent affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and NAMI New York State that is dedicated to educating the public about mental illness and offering resources and support to those in need. She worked with the agency for 11 years.
As director, she was responsible for program management, fidelity and implementation, community outreach efforts, staff management, membership development, volunteer management training and grant preparation and submissions. She also served as a Mental Health Court supervisor and trainer in addition to the Crisis Intervention Team liaison. Leigh-Estes is a member of the Board of Visitors of Rochester Psychiatric Center, an oversight board appointed by the Governor of New York and approved by the New York State Senate.
“I am eager to join the management team at ABA Academy,” said Leigh-Estes. “I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to learn and thrive in their own unique way. The key to success is to find what will help people to succeed and to become all that they can be. I look forward to contributing to this community and assisting our students and staff. I am passionate about ensuring that individuals with special needs are treated with respect, dignity and have a voice in society.”
The ABA Academy opened in Manatee County with eight students in 2013 and has grown to 48 students currently. In 2016, the nonprofit relocated to a new building in Sarasota County. The organization has six classrooms that are all run differently based on its students’ goals.
Through extremely individualized assessments and curriculum and evidence-based teaching, students set goals related to academics as well as social, emotional and behavioral needs. Many of its students receive private one-on-one therapy with therapists after school or in their homes for parents who wish to extend services and bridge the gap between home and school.
About MBJ Group
Sarasota residents and co-owners Jim and Mary Beth Bos founded MBJ Group in 2000. The husband-and-wife team has over 60 years of combined experience. The company focuses on four areas, including facilitating searches for nonprofit and for-profit organizations, working with professionals in career transition, utilizing career assessments to assist organizations in the hiring process and coaching senior-level executives. For more information, visit www.MBJGroup.com.