The Vista School

A Vision for a Better Learning Environment

A group of highly committed parents and professionals seeking to create an alternative educational and therapeutic program in Central Pennsylvania established The Vista School to prepare children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to function in the community with increasing independence. Vista uses the principles and techniques of Applied Behavior  Analysis (ABA), Precision Teaching (PT), and Direct Instruction (DI) to design, implement, monitor, and evaluate instruction and therapy for its students.

The Vista School began with a small group of parents and professionals who imagined a better learning environment for children with autism in Central Pennsylvania. Their persistence paid off—and in 2002, a two-room schoolhouse opened its doors to four students and their families.

Those core families soon learned how much their community needed this resource. The school grew swiftly and now serves 100 students from eight counties within a 50-mile radius of its Hershey campus.

The school was just the start. Total operations today include a $20 million budget for programs serving people with autism, from toddler age through adulthood. The Vista Foundation provides outreach to 130 children in homeschool settings throughout the community, as well as residential employment and training for adults. Yet, for its first 13 years, Vista operated without any formalized fundraising operation.

Small, Mighty, and Purpose-Driven

In 2015, Vista’s leaders brought on the organization’s first full-time development director, Linda Whipple. Whipple and a development specialist manage all philanthropic activities that support three distinct social good organizations under the Vista umbrella. A partnership with Blackbaud powers the mighty two-person team and equips Whipple and her colleague with the tools they need for success.

“You’re only as good as your database,” Whipple said. “It makes sense that any  organization that plans to embark on a formal development operation needs the backup of a database that is sophisticated enough to ensure that the development operation is going to be successful.”

In its early years, Vista’s fundraising focus was simple: a new building to physically accommodate the number of families hoping to enroll their children. School leaders relied on Blackbaud to provide cloud-based fundraising and donor management software with basic functions for small and growing nonprofits to achieve more.

The partnership paid off. Vista currently operates a four-building campus, two evolutions from its modest beginnings.


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