Livingstone Academy celebrated its first graduating high school class of 10 students last month.

Students from Livingstone Academy have a lot to celebrate this month. The school, which caters to students with learning disabilities, celebrated its first high school graduating class of ten students in May and recently announced plans to double the size of its autism center on Bloomingdale Ave.

A private school with campuses in Seffner and Riverview and an additional autism center and exceptional center in Brandon, Livingstone is the county’s largest provider for students with the McKay Scholarship offering small group learning models with individualized attention for students with IEPs and 504 plans.

The school, which was founded in 2003, has more than 300 students enrolled in its four locations, with 180 in grades one through 12 at the Seffner campus.

“We provide struggling students with the love and support they need,” said school CEO and Founder Chris Pello. “We teach students in small groups according to their academic levels and individual needs.”

According to Pello, of the 10 graduating students, some are attending Hillsborough Community College and two are planning to enter a transition program for vocational training. The Class President Angel Foust and Valedictorian Zach Ruminer both gave speeches at the graduation ceremony which was held at The Regent in Riverview and attended by more than 200 people.

Pello, a former Christian school principal, and his wife Bernadette, a business executive, opened the school with 35 students in Brandon after recognizing a lack of quality educational services available for students in a private school environment. In 2007, the school moved to the current main campus in Seffner.

Now, all of the school campuses provide a positive learning environment for students with specific learning disabilities, Autism, Asperger’s, speech and language disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), emotional/social disorders and cognitive and/or developmental delays. The Exceptional Center High School in Brandon also serves students with Down syndrome and focuses on devoting independent functioning and real life skills.

“Our goal is to prepare our students for entry into various transition programs in our county,” said Pello.

Scholarships are available. For more information, visit or call 661-4200.

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Kate Quesada is the Multimedia Manager for the Osprey Observer Newspapers. She has been working for the paper in various positions since 2005 when she graduated with her Masters degree in mass communications. She lives in Valrico with her husband Mike and son Dylan.