Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities Celebrates 25th Anniversary with more than 20,000 youth served

by LP Green, II

Culminating its 25th anniversary celebrations at a gala event at the Washington Marriott Marquis, the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities has raised more than $1.5 million for its Bridges from School to Work program, an initiative which has served more than 20,000 youth with disabilities, helping to train and find employment in nine markets throughout the United States.

The Bridges program, created with funding from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation and designed by Marriott International human resource leaders, assists students with disabilities transition into the workforce by pairing them with companies who need entry–level employees. Over the last three years, Bridges has partnered with more than 500 business to provide work opportunities to program participants. In 2014, 680 students achieved employment placements, with 519 staying in the job for 90 days, and 410 sticking with the job for 180 days or more.

“Year after year I am continually impressed by the success of the participants in the Bridges from School to Work program,” said Richard E. Marriott, chairman, Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities. “Assisting youth with disabilities transition into the workforce to be self-sufficient is a great privilege, as we are able to witness participants learning to recognize their full potential. I am proud we have been able to assist more than 20,000 youth achieve this goal.”

The Foundation hosted the 2015 annual gala, held at the Marriott Marquis, Washington, DC; U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan was keynote speaker. Maurice Dupree was honored as the 2015 Stephen Garff Marriott National Youth Achievement Award winner and Bank of America was recognized as Employer of the Year.

Dupree, of Gary, Indiana, joined the Bridges program as a senior in high school in 2011. By working with his Bridges employer representatives to overcome his shyness, he aced his first interview and earned a placement at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) as a janitor/team member. After a year at KFC, Dupree worked with the Bridges team to seek a new opportunity, and after weeks of interview practice, was offered a job with Levy Restaurants at Chicago’s famed Wrigley Field. So successful in his role as a food preparer, they asked him back for a second season and offered him a pay raise. During his third season working at Wrigley Field, Dupree moved out of his grandmother’s home into his own apartment. Commuting more than 50 miles each way to work, Dupree is now a housekeeper with Aramark at McCormick Place, where he enjoys interacting with visitors.

“Maurice Dupree’s transformation from a shy student with a disability to an outgoing, confident, valued employee is exactly what Bridges from School to Work aims to achieve for each of its participants,” said Tad Asbury, vice president and executive director, Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities. “Dupree’s determination to succeed and desire for new challenges demonstrates that youth with disabilities should be considered positive additions to their local workforce.”

Employer of the Year, Bank of America, has had a relationship with the Bridges program dating back to the early nineties in the San Francisco market. Now working with Dallas-area participants, Bank of America has hired more than 80 youth out of the Bridges program.

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