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2009 Annual Report – Message from the Director
“ There is tremendous potential for partnerships and movement in policy and culture change that can benefit the next generation of individuals with disabilities”
The year ended on a very high note at the Golisano Foundation. Our founder, Tom Golisano, donated $10.2 million to the foundation assuring continued support for programs and services for people with intellectual disabilities. Coming at a time when the economic conditions are a bit uncertain, this gift renews Tom’s commitment to a cause that is very close to his heart – making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.
The year also started on a very high note with the renewal of funding to the Institute for Innovative Transition, a partnership of the Golisano Foundation and the University of Rochester that is housed at the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities. The Institute provides support to young adults, family members, local educators and agencies to effectively address transition issues for individuals with developmental disabilities ages 14-25 as they transition from school age to adulthood.
Toward the Foundation’s goal of enhancing transition services, we hosted an unprecedented meeting with the region’s university and college presidents this past July. The focus was on campus-based options for young adults with developmental disabilities and to encourage more opportunities for them to experience the higher education environment. The meeting was highly energetic and positive. It was evident from the discussion that there is tremendous potential for partnerships and movement in policy and culture change that can benefit the next generation of individuals with disabilities. The Foundation will continue working to transform the community’s understanding of people with intellectual disabilities and partner with organizations to enable those with disabilities to more fully participate in the life of the community.
Other exciting news in 2009 was the launch of Rochester’s first Project SEARCH, a program that helps young adults with developmental disabilities transition to the world of work by giving them hands experience at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester’s Medical Center (URMC). Developed by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the program is a partnership among several local agencies including the Institute for Innovative Transition, Monroe Arc, Monroe 2 – Orleans BOCES and NYS VESID. And next fall, the program will expand to incorporate 12 more students from the Rochester City School District who will have internships in the City of Rochester government.
At the kickoff of Project SEARCH last November, it was evident that the benefits of the program extend well beyond the students involved and are best described by Susan Hetherington, assistant professor and director of Project SEARCH at URMC – “not only are we helping to educate young people with developmental disabilities and give them job skills, we are showing our employees the value of individuals with disabilities. In a few short weeks of the program, we have seen first-hand how quickly the bond can grow between student and employee mentor and how we can turn a co-worker into an advocate. At the end of the school year, we won’t have just changed the lives of the 12 student in the program, we’ll have changed the viewpoints of every individual they’ve worked alongside in their year here”.
We look forward to continued work in 2010, which marks the Foundation’s 25th Anniversary. We will certainly keep you posted on the events and activities we have planned in celebration. We start the year with participation in two exciting efforts to increase opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities - a Workforce Development Town Hall Meeting convened by Special Olympics in Washington, D.C. and the Inclusion Task Force convened by the Al Sigl Family of Agencies here in Rochester…… Stay tuned!