Welcome to Episode 50 of The Darlington Podcast!
In this episode, Head of School Brent Bell talks with Laura Whitaker, CEO of Extra Special People, Inc., following her March 17 address as the inaugural speaker of the Darlington School Leadership Institute Speaker Series.
Laura Whitaker was named executive director of Extra Special People, Inc. at the age of 19, after the sudden passing of the organization's founder. Whitaker began her relationship with ESP by working as a counselor and, subsequently, a leadership team member in 2003. She became the organization's CEO in 2022.
Whitaker holds a B.Ed. in Collaborative Special Education and M.Ed. in Adapted Curriculum Classic Autism from the University of Georgia. She has apeared in "40 Under 40" lists published by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the UGA Alumni Association, the Athens Banner Herald and Georgia Trend. She has also received the Athens Banner Herald's Super Citizen Award, Rotary Club of Oconee County's Community Four-Way Test Award, the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce's Volunteer of the Year Award, and was recognized as one of UGA’s top-growing business leaders (No.12 out of the Bulldog 100).
Whitaker is a graduate of L.E.A.D. Athens Class of 2012 and has served as a United Way of NEGA board member, a North Oconee Rotarian, an Oconee Civitan and member of the Junior League of Athens. She is now involved with the L.E.A.D. Athens Steering Committee, Leadership Georgia and Classic City Church. She and her husband, Joseph, have three children, Owen Patrick, Finley Gray and Tate Alan.
Founded in 1986 in Watkinsville, Ga., Extra Special People Inc. aims to create a community of support for individuals of all abilities. ESP serves participants beginning at birth and with no upper age limit, welcoming those with diagnoses of cerebral palsy, down syndrome, autism, traumatic brain injury, spina bifida, and many more. Their specialized programs enable participants to thrive with swimming, dancing, arts and crafts and cooking; family support, retreats, dinners, counseling, and holiday events.
The Darlington Podcast is a collaboration between the communication and advancement teams, and is hosted by various members of the school community. Episodes are released each Thursday morning and available on most podcast platforms (search for The Darlington Podcast in your podcast player). Once new episodes are posted, you'll also be able to find them at www.darlingtonschool.org/podcast. Please subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts so that you'll get the latest episode each week!
The Darlington Podcast intro music was written and performed by Elliot Luitwieler ('22) and Kathryn Davidson ('22). Carson Raymond, director of major gifts, lends his voice, and editing and production is handled by Maddie Fox, content manager.
If you have ideas for future episodes or have any questions about The Darlington Podcast, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.