As engineer David Melvin talks at the podium about plans for a “tiny house” neighborhood that Endeavor planners recently visited, Chipola College President Sarah Clemmons and FSU-Panama City’s Dr. Irvin Clark listen from their places at the head table during last Friday’s meeting hosted by Florida’s Great Northwest.

As dreams take shape for the 1,248-acre property once known as the home of the Dozier School For Boys, diversity is a key word as plans go forward to transform the property, now known as Endeavor. It is being developed into a hub of economic growth for Jackson County and the region.

One special aspect of the planning also holds the potential of becoming a landmark social experiment as well, one that would offer hope and bright futures for a challenged segment of society.

Those deeply involved in the plan to create a transitional center for individuals on the autism spectrum stress that everything is still in flux, with nothing set in stone at this point. But they do offer some general ideas that are emerging as likely scenarios.

Some of those notions were discussed last Friday at a Florida’s Great Northwest gathering in Marianna, and on a van tour of Endeavor that followed the session.

Planners envision refreshing the old Dozier vocational block of buildings and using those structures as the cornerstone of a new vocational training center.

The student population would be a diverse mix.

It might include people from the general population who are seeking work in the construction trades, as well as people who have been diagnosed with autism disorders and could benefit from specialized instruction at the center. Chipola College is expected to take the lead in the vocational curriculum.

Endeavor is expected to include a comprehensive autism transitioning center, which could eventually evolve to help people with other challenges as well. But its primary initial purpose is to help young people with autism that are aging out of high school and beginning their adult lives.

There, they would be schooled in the fine art of independent living, learning everything from job interview skills to checking account management.

And in one of the biggest pieces of Endeavor planning right now, they’d have a place to live in community with others as they start that journey toward independence as adults.

Endeavor may have a “tiny house” neighborhood of about 40 homes, where it is envisioned that the autism center participants would live and pay rent temporarily, alongside, potentially, senior tenants and possibly medical school interns who would come here as part of their clinical field studies and learn at the autism center.

Local Endeavor planners recently toured a tiny house neighborhood in Tallahassee called The Dwellings to get a better idea of how a tiny house neighborhood looks and generally functions.

The goal here is to create a diverse neighborhood of rentals as a place that would continue to serve autism center students, senior populations and others through the years. Local Endeavor planners recently toured a tiny house neighborhood in Tallahassee called The Dwellings to get a better idea of how a tiny house neighborhood functions.

At the FGNW meeting Friday, Dr. Irvin Clark came from Florida State University’s Panama City campus to express support for Chipola College in its role as the expected lead entity in the vocational training aspect. FSU may someday send some of its medic al interns to the center for field studies, although this is not a certainty.

The vocational center and the tiny house neighborhood are, as currently planned, meant to provide opportunities for meaningful interaction between autism disorder students, vocational students from the general population and other populations targeted for inclusion in the program.

Family Dollar Distribution Center leadership has already expressed interest in the vocational program as a resource that could provide specialized training for potential employees, including some from both the autism center and the general student population. Other corporate partners could also be part of the big picture as the center is created.

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