Bridges Fall 2023 Update
September 21, 2023
2023-2024 School Year
Twelve Cities and 21 School Districts
Across our 12 cities, we are excited to collaborate with professional educators in 21 school districts to identify and recruit high school students and recent graduates to participate in Bridges from School to Work.
- Atlanta Public Schools
- Baltimore City Public Schools
- Berkeley Unified School District
- Boston Public Schools
- Chicago Public Schools
- Clayton County Schools
- Compton Unified School District
- Dallas Independent School District
- District of Columbia Public Schools
- Douglas County Schools
- Fort Worth Independent School District
- Fulton County Schools
- Garland Independent School District
- Los Angeles Unified School District
- Marietta City Schools
- New York City Public Schools
- Oakland Unified School District
- Paulding County Schools
- San Francisco Unified School District
- School District of Philadelphia
- West Contra Costa Unified School District
Ben of Oakland
Ben is about to reach six months of employment as a Lot Associate at a Home Depot store in Oakland, CA, where his co-workers have officially recognized him with “Homer Awards” (see below, right) for providing excellent customer service and for exemplifying company values. Ben, whose favorite color happens to be orange, looks forward to wearing the Home Depot apron for each shift.
When Ben applied for the position, the Home Depot recruiter helped expedite his application and interview. Once hired, Ben’s managers fostered an affirming environment for him.
Twenty-year-old Ben is on the autism spectrum and struggles with communication, but as each week passes, he grows more confident in his interactions with teammates and customers. His managers have adjusted his schedule by giving him shorter shifts and by assigning him duties he enjoys, which include organizing and arranging carts, hand trucks, and flatbeds.
Before Home Depot, Ben worked in a grocery fulfillment center. Although he stuck with the job for 90 days, the quota and pace required to fill orders proved too stressful, so he and his Employment Specialist, Lisel Brunson, decided to find a better match for Ben’s aptitudes and skills. Lisel and Ben’s mom, Akilah, are thrilled that Home Depot is proving to be an environment where Ben can flourish.
Ben of Oakland
Home Depot “Homer Awards”
Christian of Chicago
Christian of Chicago
After graduating from George Washington High School in Chicago, Christian enrolled in Bridges and began a job with grocer Jewel-Osco. He began in February 2017, working at Jewel more than a year, first in a courtesy clerk position, rewarded later for his work ethic with a promotion to cashier. Christian’s real interest, however, was IT, one he had cultivated from years of gaming and from tinkering with old laptops his dad left around the house.
Christian’s Employment Specialist at the time, Mirna Velic, now our Boston Bridges Director, learned of an opening with one of our national employer partners, Accenture. Christian’s first Accenture interview, which required him to observe a technician performing a sequence of IT tasks and then demonstrate that he could replicate them, didn’t result in a job offer. He later interviewed for a different job, this time securing an offer and becoming an Accenture Location Services Associate in May 2018. For the next three years, Christian coordinated IT logistics for in-person and virtual meetings at his Accenture office.
In September 2021, Christian moved into a new Accenture position, this one in Event Express Support. He still coordinates IT logistics, but now on a much larger scale; these days, Christian produces virtual department and market-wide town hall meetings for 200 to 2,000 attendees.
The interpersonal skills Christian developed at Jewel, and the ability to work under pressure in a grocery checkout line, came in handy at Accenture. At Jewel, Christian learned to remain calm—even when others are not. Jewel instilled in him the professionalism and composure needed for his Accenture roles.
Christian is now 25 and comfortable talking about his autism and the stigma and bullying common among students who receive special education services. In a recent interview, he recounted that Mirna Velic believed in his potential when others didn’t. No matter how much effort he put into getting a job, Christian said that Mirna worked even harder to make his IT dream a reality.
October Is National Disability Employment Awareness Month
This year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (#NDEAM) theme is “Advancing Access and Equity.” Learn more at dol.gov/NDEAM.
Three of our cities will hold Bridges receptions in October to honor the contributions of our collaborators in transforming the lives of young adults with disabilities through the power of a job:
- Chicago — October 12, 4:30 p.m., River Roast
- Atlanta — October 19, 6:00 p.m., Renaissance Waverly Hotel
- Dallas and Fort Worth — October 30, 6:00 p.m., Marriott Dallas Uptown
Bridges’ Annual Gala-Fundraiser
Our June 26, 2023 fundraiser gala raised $2,192,772.
Richard Marriott (right), co-chaired this year’s gala with Julie Sweet, (left), Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Accenture. Together, they welcomed 1,000 guests and thanked over 170 sponsors.
Richard Lui, MSNBC and NBC news anchor, hosted the event and interviewed NCAA Wrestling Champion, Anthony Robles.
Marco Beltran (center), a former Bay-Area Bridges participant, was our Stephen G. Marriott Youth Achievement Honoree. You can meet Marco and hear his story in the video below.
Save the date for next year’s gala, which will be held Tuesday, May 28, 2024, at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC.
For more information, please contact the Gala Team at (202) 719-8057 or [email protected].
Stephen G. Marriott Youth Achievement Honoree Marco Beltran flanked by Julie Sweet (left) and Richard Marriott (right)
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
We are grateful to receive our second consecutive grant award from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation for our New York City Bridges program, where we increase employment rates and improve career outcomes for young adults with disabilities and other employment barriers in the nation’s largest school district. An earlier grant award from the Foundation helped launch our Baltimore Bridges program in 2013.
For more information about the history, mission, and impact of the Foundation, visit the organization’s website.