Bridges 2021 Fall Update

September 17, 2021

Still I Rise

Across our 20-plus school districts, we look forward to meeting students and teachers in person for the 2021-2022 school year, though much uncertainty remains as the delta variant causes COVID cases to surge. We continue to follow local COVID guidelines in our cities and school districts. We also continue to require a COVID acknowledgement form that over 1,500 participants have signed since Spring of 2020.

This year we have an ambitious goal of enrolling 1,250 young adults. Most of these will be high school seniors who are excited about graduating in June of 2022. We are going to be an integral part of their final year of high school, supporting their gradual transition to adult life and connecting them to jobs that many businesses are struggling to fill.

As we proceed with the important work of Bridges, we fortify ourselves with the words of two inspirational voices: One is from the past, the late Dr. Maya Angelou, who penned “Still I rise.” The other is a bright, youthful voice of the future, Ms. Amanda Gorman, who gave us “We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.”

Equipped with those as our mantras, we eagerly begin our 32nd year with an undiminished belief in the power of a job to transform young lives.

Tad Asbury
Executive Director

Ash Kravitz
Ash Kravitz of Oakland, CA recognized with the 2021 Stephen G. Marriott Youth Achievement Award

New Board Member

We are thrilled to welcome Jennie Blumenthal as our newest board member. Jennie is an entrepreneur, a guest lecturer at the University of Virginia, an executive coach for female entrepreneurs, and a former partner at PwC. She thrives at the intersection of entrepreneurship, customer insights, innovation, and tech. Jenny is drawn to helping executives and organizations find a purpose and mission that goes beyond just generating revenue.

Jennie started her career in consulting to non-profit organizations, and Bridges from School to Work was her first client! She is excited to come full circle and continue to serve this important mission, this time as one of our seven board members.

Originally from Virginia and the daughter of educators, Jennie lives in Washington, DC with her husband Kevin and their two children. She completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Virginia and her MBA at the George Washington University.

Jennie Blumenthal
Jennie Blumenthal is our newest board member.

Kenneth Upshaw’s Retirement

After more than 25 years as director of the Chicago Bridges program, Dr. Kenneth Upshaw retired in July 2021. During his tenure, Ken cultivated a relationship with Chicago Public Schools, the third largest district in the nation, that enabled Bridges to grow from a staff of 6 to over 20. Together, Ken and his staff served 6,000 young people with disabilities from the Chicagoland area. For several years while he was director of the Chicago program, Ken also provided regional oversight and support to multiple Bridges offices, including Dallas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

The time has now come for Ken to turn the next page in his life. While this may seem like the closing of a story for those of us who will sorely miss his leadership and wisdom, it’s an anticipated new chapter for Ken, and one that we hope will bring him all the joy and rewards that this new phase of his life has to offer.

Dr. Kenneth Upshaw
Dr. Kenneth Upshaw retired in July 2021.

Staff Updates

Congratulations to Joseph Naves on his promotion from Employer Representative to Team Lead for the Los Angeles Bridges program.

Joseph earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Sociology at California State University Dominguez Hills. He has been with Bridges since 2016.

Andrew Selby, former Team Lead for Boston, is beginning a new role as Project Lead for NextGen, a two-year study we are conducting with Mathematica, described later in this update.

Andrew began as an Employer Representative with Bridges of San Francisco in 2011. He earned his undergraduate degree in Psychology at San Francisco State University and his Master of Public Administration at California State University East Bay.

Congratulations to Shebtufi Kushma of Chicago, Brandy McCrary of Atlanta, and Anna Sammons of New York City (L-R) for advancing from Employer Representative I to Employer Representative II positions.

Joseph Naves
Joseph Naves
Andrew Selby
Andrew Selby
Shebtufi Kushma
Shebtufi Kushma
Brandy McCrary
Brandy McCrary
Anna Sammons
Anna Sammons
Bridges in 2021 Infographic

Virtual Gala a Success

Bridges Virtual Gala 2021

Our virtual gala on June 15, 2021 was a big success, raising $1.5 million for Bridges from School to Work. Dick Marriott (pictured at upper right) co-chaired the event with Steve King (lower right), Chief Operating Officer, PublicisGroupe. This is the third consecutive year that Publicis has co-chaired the event, and we are grateful for the company’s ongoing commitment to Bridges’ mission.

Magician Michael Carbanaro (above center), creator of TV’s “The Carbarnaro Effect,” enthralled our virtual guests and donors with his sleight of hand and comic antics.

We are so grateful to the corporations, foundations, and individuals who supported our work, especially as a global pandemic continues to curtail the way we work and live our lives.

As part of the virtual gala, we recognized Ash Kravitz of Oakland, CA with the 2021 Stephen G. Marriott Youth Achievement Award.

You can hear Ash’s story in the video below. We congratulate Ash and our San Francisco and Oakland team members for their exemplary achievements in the midst of this global pandemic.

Richard Marriott at the podium during the 2021 Bridges Gala
Richard Marriott during a Bridges Gala

Bridges Participates in NextGen

Beginning with the 2021 academic year and continuing over the next two years, Bridges will participate in a federally funded research study known as the NextGen Project.

NextGen, or the Next Generation of Enhanced Employment Strategies Project, is a collaboration among several organizations. It is being led by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE)in the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is also a partner on the project.

Mathematica, a research organization, will lead the study, which will be a randomized control trial (RCT), the gold standard for measuring program efficacy.

Ultimately, the NextGen RCT will be among only a few of its kind for young adults with disabilities as they leave high school and enter the workforce. The study will provide actionable information to policymakers about interventions for assisting individuals facing complex challenges as they find jobs, advance in the labor market, and improve their economic security.

Did You Know?

The descendants of J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott, the founders of Marriott International, established Bridges from School to Work (Bridges) in 1989 to improve employment outcomes for youth with disabilities. In 1990, Bridges began serving youth in Montgomery County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. From there the program expanded to serve some of our nation’s largest school districts across the cities of Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

In these 12 cities, over 70 Bridges workforce development professionals now work each year with approximately 200 high schools to prepare youth with disabilities ages 17-24 for the competitive labor market, matching them to jobs aligned with their skills, interests, and abilities.

Bridges’ personnel understand that for the program to succeed, they cannot concern themselves only with the needs the young adults who enroll; they must also satisfy the needs that business and industry have for qualified workers. This employer-driven approach has been part of the program’s philosophy since its inception. Bridges brings together employers who need good workers with youth with disabilities having trouble connecting to jobs.