Co-Founder / Co-Executive Director
Melissa Johnson was born February 20, 1984 to Patricia and Keith Johnson. During a time when the Johnsons should have been celebrating their first born child and experiencing life’s milestones, they instead heard comments from doctors like, “she will never be the older sister.”
The Johnson family was blessed with two more children, and Melissa did in fact become an older sister. Melissa’s “little sister,” Ashton Johnson, has always played an active role in her sister’s life. She saw her mother’s concern for the lack of support for older individuals with disabilities and realized that she could be part of the solution.
After researching and planning with her mother, Ashton started a pilot program at the City of Charleston as a trial life skills program.
Co-Founder / Co- Executive Director
Towards the end of the pilot program is when Ashton crossed paths with Molly Smith, who was working privately with Anthony Pope when she heard about the program Ashton began working on.
Anthony is a 25-year-old man with Autism. His father, Tony Pope, had experiences similar to the Johnson family in regards to his son’s future. Mr. Pope wanted Anthony to always be in an environment where he would continue to grow and develop. Realizing that the public school system is the not the ideal program for his son, Mr. Pope attempted to enroll Anthony in a local private school for children with learning disabilities. He was told that while Anthony is fairly high functioning, he it not high functioning enough for their school. He was told that if they accepted Anthony, they would have to open their doors to everyone like him. As Anthony grew into adulthood, the lack of support became even more apparent.
While practicing music therapy in the Lowcountry, Molly began working with Anthony part time. She soon realized that she was his only friend. Upon shadowing Anthony at Ashton’s pilot program, Molly and Ashton realized that they shared a vision. Ashton asked Molly if she would be interested in making Beyond BASIC a reality with her, and Molly decided to resign from practicing music therapy.