About Ave Maria

With new findings showing that one in every 166 children in the United States has autism, the school serves those dealing with the autism spectrum and other special learning needs including Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Pervasive Development Delay (PDD), Learning Disabilities (LD) Asperger’s Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, anxiety and bipolar disorders.

Ave Maria serves students ages 6 to 22 from Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Myakka City, Venice, North Port, Port Charlotte and Parrish in the Tampa Bay Area. The school accepts scholarships. Under the direction of Donald Pratt, Ph,D., Ave Maria has a very developed Anger Management Course for students.

Established in 2004 by Sister Gilchrist Cottrill, CE, the school follows the Florida Standards Curriculum Delivered for Diversity. As Sister Gilchrist explains, “We encourage students to use the Disney side of the brain — the right, artistic, intuitive side.” The experienced teaching staff offers strong remediation programs in reading and mathematics.

“We use programs recommended by the International Dyslexia Association and the Learning Disabilities Association of America.” Sister Gilchrist has been co-presenting with the President of the International Dyslexia Association, Dr. Eric Tridas. At these conference, both Dr. Tridas and Sister Gilchrist have been keynote speakers on the topic of “Executive Function” in the classroom. This is about the planning, organizing and memory skills needed for success.

The school provides student transportation.


Ave Maria Preparatory is a private school open to all religions. A primary goal of our school, in regard to students parents and staff, is to strengthen belief in a providing God. It is therefore the mindset of our school community not to discriminate against or turn away students and families who are unable to meet the financial requirements of our institution.

Because of its belief in the God-given dignity and abilities of each student, the school provides a unique opportunity for education for students with special learning needs. Furthermore, respecting the right for all children to receive a quality education, it does not discriminate according to race, color, creed, or national origin.

In addition, Ave Maria recognizes the various manner and levels in which a student can progress academically. Therefore, the school operates within the concept of “continuous Progress Education,” a specific structure allowing the student to be challenged at his or her own rate, with individualized accommodations. We believe that our responsibility to the students does not end with high school graduation. Therefore we are proactive in partnering with other entities to provide students post-secondary education and employment opportunities.


In imitation of a providing God Ave Maria Preparatory School maintains a safe and caring atmosphere where students and staff are valued for their God given gifts and dignity.

Admissions Process

  1. Phone interview
  2. Tour of school
  3. Assessment interview with parents, student and director
  4. Decide scholarship choices and registration

View / Print Registration Form in PDF Format

Non-Discriminatory Policy

Ave Maria University Preparatory School, Inc., a Florida not for profit corporation, admits students of any race, color, creed, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school administered programs.

For more information about Ave Maria, call 941-322-1601 or send us an email.

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Partnership for Shared Services with Goodwill Industries.

Counseling Services through Community Care Family Clinic.