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BrightStone Helps Students’ Dreams Come True

Article by Sarah Skates

Photography by Provided

Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle

BrightStone, an educational program serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is thriving at its new home, Land of Dreams. The 140-acre property tucked off Columbia Pike in south Franklin, features state-of-the-art facilities as well as brand-new residential housing, which just welcomed its first occupants. The long-term vision is impressive, with future plans including an aquatic center, equestrian center, chapel, greenhouses and more.

BrightStone strives to empower its students with opportunities for education and connection. At the Stinnett Center for Learning, Art and Enterprise, students create ceramics from start to finish, shaping and glazing lovely bowls, platters and ornaments. Down the hall in the consumables lab, the students independently concoct mixes for fudge, dips, cookies and teas. Another room is used for packaging the items which are then sold in their onsite storefront and at local shops in downtown Franklin.

Teachers have perfected ways for the students to work independently, creating a sense of purpose and pride. Even the computer keyboards are specially designed. “Everything we do here sets them up for success,” says Elaine Farmer, head of Program Admissions and Tours, and one of BrightStone’s biggest cheerleaders. In addition to the many educational classrooms, the 23,000-square-foot facility has a medical clinic with a sensory room, and a full-service cafeteria where the chef knows each student’s dietary restrictions. 

Throughout the week, students attend exercise and art classes, and continuing education in the Learning Lab, where they recently studied ladybugs. There is also a working garden, and soon BrightStone will add its first donkeys for the students to learn about and enjoy. One of the highlights of each week is music class, where a talented student known affectionately as “BrightStone Buble’” always steals the show.

Each December, the students perform a free Christmas program. They begin practicing in late summer for this big event. “It is a highlight of our year and a thank-you to the community for its support,” says Farmer. 

Select students participate in the PATH (Preparation and Training for Hireability) program, which teaches them to be employable in the community. Some of their jobs include folding pizza boxes and refilling shakers at SoulShine Pizza, and bagging groceries at The Well Outreach Center. BrightStone students also take weekly field trips, with recent visits to the YMCA, the Williamson County Animal Shelter and Franklin’s local parks. 

Brenda Hauk founded BrightStone, the first program of its kind in Tennessee, in the lower level of a church with four students. Today it continues to grow and serve more than 50 students.

“Since 1999, our mission has never wavered: to give adults a purpose-filled life, to celebrate and develop their unique abilities, to create life-changing opportunities in our classrooms, and in the community,” says CEO Lee Rose. “BrightStone exists to provide not only hope, but a life for the individuals we serve where they can find worth every day. Our desire is to assist in the life journey of functionally disabled adults who can live and work in their community with assistance. We are here to help them to have the best life. In fact, one they envision for themselves." 

BrightStone staff and students are very thankful for their numerous volunteers and community support. Brightstone.org 

  • Lady A performs with BrightStone students at the Night Full of Stars benefit at The Factory in April