Our Mission

Pathways to Independence supports the development of skills that positively impact the lives of individuals with disabilities who seek greater independence and social success.

Our Purpose

We are more than a recreation-based program; we are uniquely focused on developing social, interpersonal and other soft skills in individuals with complex cognitive disabilities to help them overcome personal and professional challenges.

Behind everything we do, every interaction, we are building skills that open up new possibilities and pave the way to independence. Socializing, and more so, independence comes with risk, and we give participants the courage and confidence to take those risks.

Through these experiences and interactions, participants gain confidence, empowering them in all aspects of life, from their personal lives to their professional aspirations. Pathways to Independence helps develop productive members of society who can contribute to their communities in positive ways.


Group riding bikes down a path
Pedal to Progress

Core values

  • Authenticity

    We look to build authentic relationships among our participants and foster deep and authentic staff connections with the mission of Pathways. We believe in living out honesty, vulnerability and self-reflection.

  • Empowerment

    We seek to foster autonomy and self-determination in people and communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way.

  • Community

    We strive to create tight-knit inclusive communities among our members and the general community and celebrate diversity in those communities.

  • Respect

    We believe in treating all individuals with dignity, fairness and empathy while ensuring their safety and well-being.

  • Striving

    We challenge ourselves and our participants to continually grow, learn new skills, improve and be the best we/they can be.

Our history

Learn more about Pathways and how we have expanded our services and support opportunities to become the organization we are today.

Click and drag to explore our history


Pathways to Independence is founded

Pathways to Independence (Pathways) was founded in 1987, first as a committee of the Learning Disabilities Association – St. Louis and then as a separate not-for-profit organization. Pathways was created to address the needs of young adults with severe learning disabilities in their transition from school-to-school or school-to-work.


Supported living program

Parents and professionals first identified the need to help this population with their living arrangements. Life Skills Foundation agreed to serve a small group of adults with learning disabilities (LD) through its supported living program, and the Productive Living Board of St. Louis County (PLB) approved funding in 1991. 20 individuals moved into their own apartments through this collaboration.


Leisure and learning

Social isolation was recognized as another major hurdle for young adults with LD. As a result of unemployment and underemployment, many have a great deal of time on their hands, but they do not have the social skills or the confidence to be active or creative with how they use that time. The “Leisure and Learning” program was developed in 1992 and funded in part by the PLB to assist 30 individuals in achieving better social skills. The program served 80 individuals by 2004 and has now touched more than 500 lives.


Pilot project

In February 2010, the Pathways program was selected for a pilot project with mid-year funding from the St. Louis Office for Developmental Disabilities (DD Resources) for up to eight City of St. Louis residents. This grant was renewed and increased beginning July 1, 2010 for 10 City of St. Louis residents.


DDRB funding

In September of 2012, funding was secured from the Developmental Disability Resource Board of St. Charles County (DDRB), and services began in October to serve 30 residents in St. Charles County. Organizational capacity was increased through additional full-time staff members.


Expanded services

In 2012, facing changes in funded delivery models by the PLB, Pathways initiated a strategic planning process that more clearly defined the program structure into three distinct projects. In doing so, Pathways consciously chose to provide some services that would likely not be funded in part by the PLB but would be eligible for funding from the other local SB-40 Boards (DD Resources and DDRB). The three projects were Social Growth and Expansion, Social College and Self-Directed Community Interaction Skills.


Funding shifts

In October of 2013, Pathways discontinued its relationship with PLB as a result of changing funding priorities. Funding was obtained through DD Resources, DDRB, participant fees, donations, foundation grants and fundraising events to provide social skill development and self-advocacy training, which assisted approximately 140 participants in achieving their individual goals toward independence, community engagement and meaningful personal relationships. Pathways services were further refined over the following years and processes were solidified for developing Individual Support Plans and measuring progress on goals for Pathways participants.

2016 / 2017

Expanded funding

In 2016, Pathways approached the Productive Living Board about receiving funding to support 100 Pathways participants living in St. Louis County. In September of 2017, PLB entered into a funding agreement with Pathways to support existing programs.


Program reorganization

Pathways established a new theory of change, new program outcomes and revised program descriptions to reflect current/best practices in 2018. The four programs include Social Growth, Social Focus, Social College and Growth and Potential (GAP).


Planning and expansion

In 2019, Pathways completed a strategic plan. The plan identified the organization’s core values and desire to further strengthen existing programs (aging populations), expand to a younger age group (16-17 years old), build programming to connect families, develop a new innovative program to strengthen participant integration into their community and double the number of participants supported by 2022 to 300. In 2019, Pathways also expanded its programs to Jefferson County with the establishment of a funding agreement with DD Advocates of Jefferson County.

The latest from our community

Care to Celebrate - Thank you for your support!

Pathways to Independence is grateful for all of the support in making our virtual wine tasting, Care to Celebrate a huge succes. Our supporters helped us raise over $10,000!

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Pathways Welcomes New Board Member, Keith Jacob

Keith Jacob founded and ran a full-service staffing company in St. Louis for the past 24 years.  His newest entrepreneurial venture is FocalPoint Business Coaching and Training.  Keith currently sits on the board of the Missouri Merchants and Manufacturing Association and the Alumni Board for the Entrpreneur’s Organization – St. louis Chapter.  He is also […]

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Pathways Welcomes New Board Member

Ellen Harmon is the Associate General Counsel for a global medical and emergency transport company. She has served on a variety of boards over the years.  Ellen is a member of Missouri Bar Association and currently serves as a board member for the St. Louis Audubon Society and Center for Patient Safety in addition to […]

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