ProjectFree is led by a group of educators, parents and advocates with outstanding experience and passionate determination. Kim Costanzo put this group together and fueled their progress inspired by her indomitable niece, Lauren, who personifies what is possible when a person focuses on their abilities and breaking down barriers. Lauren happens to have Down Syndrome.
From the day of her birth Lauren’s family recognized that her life would be all about what she would achieve in spite of what the larger society might think is possible. Thirty years of challenges and successes including Lauren being the first mainstreamed student in a Public High School, a performing musician and holding down a job in the “real world”, still places Lauren in a world with very limited career and independent life options. What about going off to college? Having real career choices? Living independently with a network of friends and a rich and productive life after 9 to 5? Kim had to admit after years of advocating and working as an educator and administrator in special education that no such fun, socially stimulating and safe environment as the type she envisioned for Lauren existed. With that realization, the idea for Project Free and Freedom Village was born.
Kim turned her incredible energy, passion and determination to the creation of Freedom Village a place where people with diverse abilities can live, learn, work and play in a community with world class independent housing, an independent Trade School offering financial aid, and competitive career opportunities with freedom and a quality of life previously thought to be impossible.