Why We Exist
“ I truly believe Foothills Academy has changed our lives for the better. I almost feel I cannot put into words exactly how grateful we are that Foothills Academy exists. My son never felt like he belonged in a school setting before Foothills Academy. Right from the first day the teachers and staff made him feel like he was understood and he has since felt very welcomed and comfortable. He also had trouble making friends before Foothills but now has the best group of friends he’s ever had. I will never forget our first parent/teacher interview at Foothills Academy. I was in shock as I heard the teachers say encouraging words that my husband and I have been wishing other school teachers had said (at least once) in the past 7 years of my son’s schooling. Finally, we have found a haven where people understood our son! We now have a happy 18-year-old who will graduate high school this year and go on to post-secondary education with confidence and the tools for success.” Foothills Academy School Parent
“My son has benefited from Camp Amicus because this was the start of our ADHD/LD journey and we found supportive, professional and caring people. As a mother of 2, for the first time didn’t feel alone. I felt supported and met other people going through the same sojourn. This camp started to change our life for the better and the 3:1 ratio is amazing. The bursaries make this all possible.” Camp Amicus Program Parent
“My son went into the Read/Write program feeling frustrated with reading and therefore struggled with learning. His confidence was deflated and he was starting to give up on himself. We did the 75 hour Intensive Read/Write program in August. He never once complained about waking up every morning and going. Now he has a hard time putting a book down. He’s read over 2 novels in the past month!!! We are so proud of him and very grateful for his time with his instructor. Thank you!” Read/Write Program Parent
For parents whose child is struggling with learning, it can be difficult to find the right help. Learning Disabilities are an invisible disability that can affect academic skills, social skills, self-confidence and self-esteem. With the right identification and supports, these individuals have unlimited potential. Without the right supports, the outcomes can be grim – school disengagement and drop out, involvement in crime, poverty, addiction and homelessness are just some of the potentially negative outcomes.
Foothills Academy was born of the frustration experienced by Bill and Beth Mackasey as their search for an appropriate academic setting for their son, Patrick, proved futile. Knowing how capable their son was, yet recognizing how little special educational programming was available for Patrick to be successful, the Mackaseys’ approached Gordon Bullivant and Tom Aylesworth, who were already working with special needs students, for help.
Over the next two years, from 1975 to 1977, a major research project documented the services available in Calgary and across North America and concluded there to be a need for a segregated school for students with Learning Disabilities. Mr. and Mrs. Mackasey, Gordon and Tom, decided to continue to pursue the idea of a segregated school, and formed a society whose purpose would be to start a private, non-profit school and centre. Financial support was sought and in September of 1979 the first 33 students began their school year at Foothills Academy, located in the old St. Pius School in Capitol Hill.
For the next 35 years (1979 – 2015) Foothills Academy thrived with Gordon Bullivant as the Executive Director and Tom Aylesworth as the Business Administrator. The current centre was built in Parkdale in 1990, and expanded in 2012 with a burgeoning student population which has now reached its maximum capacity at 285. The expansion also provided a greater number of counselling, assessment, and individual instruction rooms, facilitating significant growth in all of those areas as well. In 2013 the Learning Disabilities Association of Alberta – Calgary Chapter was absorbed into Foothills Academy, bringing with it the social skills program and Camp Amicus.
The vision of these founders and the commitment and dedication of the employees over the past three and half decades has had a profound and positive impact on thousands of young people and families. The impact of Gordon and Tom cannot be understated, as they always wanted to ensure that no child or family would be turned away due to financial need. In accordance with their vision, Foothills Academy Society continues to raise close to $1 Million annually to support the bursary fund, allowing access to our school and community services for all.
In 2015, with Tom’s passing and Gordon’s retirement, Foothills Academy entered into a new era, yet still focused on the incredible vision of these founders.