August 10, 2010

Golisano Foundation Grants $960,000 to Institute for Innovative Transition

Golisano Foundation Grants $960,000 to Institute for Innovative Transition to Continue and Expand its Work to Improve Transition for Young Adults with Intellectual Disabilities

Child with glasses and woman pose for a photograph.Ann Costello, Director of The Golisano Foundation today announced that the Foundation has awarded a three-year grant of $960,000 to the Institute for Innovative Transitionto continue its work to improve transition outcomes and experiences for students and young adults with developmental disabilities as they transition from school to the adult world.

The Institute for Innovative Transition was founded in 2008 with an initial two-year grant of $600,000 from the Golisano Foundation. It is a partnership of the Golisano Foundation and the University of Rochester’s Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities and the Warner School of Education. The Institute is housed at the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, a division of Golisano Children’s Hospital at URMC.

“In two short years the Institute has changed the face and way we view transition for students ages 14-25 with intellectual disabilities,” said Costello. “It has expanded and created new opportunities and choices, brought best practices to town such as Project SEARCH™, and demonstrated that students with disabilities can be successful in ways we never imagined.”

“This is the Foundation’s signature project, and the largest single gift given annually,” added Costello.  “In addition to supporting the Institute’s programs we have moved into the public policy arena to advocate for change at the state level. We are gaining traction; the Institute has demonstrated great results and we are with them! We hope that this support also positions them well for other funding opportunities to ensure long-term sustainability.”

The Institute’s mission is to improve the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities and their families as they transition from school age to adulthood by acting as conveners, collaborators, and educators for the region.

Martha Mock, PhD, Assistant Professor & Director, Institute for Innovative Transition at the Warner School of Education & Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities at the University of RochesterMartha Mock, PhD, Assistant Professor & Director, Institute for Innovative Transition at the Warner School of Education & Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities at the University of Rochester said, “We thank the Golisano Foundation for the past two years of support and for partnering with us to improve the quality of life for adolescents and young adults with developmental disabilities and their families. The lessons learned from these two years and the relationships developed have helped us to create a vision for the next three years that will signal a new age in transition for young adults and their families.

Mock added, “We are committed to engaging with local, regional and statewide providers and agencies who work in transition every day. Through these commitments and with the continued support of the Golisano Foundation we will truly be “Transforming Transition through Programs, Policy and Practice.”

“Our vision for the next three years,” said Mock, “is to move the educational and adult services providers to drastically increase and improve transition planning and services. This will demonstrate the benefits of transition planning and implementation for the individual and the collective economic well-being.”

Two such transformational programs preparing people with disabilities for the work force and coordinated by the Institute are Think College NY! and Project SEARCH™.  They are on the cutting edge of disability programming, policy and practice.

Through Project SEARCH™ at the University of Rochester, seven individuals were hired, earning competitive wages and benefits, becoming financial contributors to society, and saving an estimated $27,000 to $36,000 per person per year in state and federal dollars in disability benefits.

It is estimated that there are about 1500 people in the nine-county Finger Lakes region ages 14-21 who have development disabilities. Not all have been identified and are known.

Forty percent of people with disabilities, and more than 90 percent of people with intellectual disabilities ages 18-64 in the U.S. are underemployed or unemployed.

Joe Kelly, Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Programs for Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES, said, “The Golisano Foundation brought our community together and challenged all of us to work collaboratively, to knock down barriers and to seek creative solutions in helping our students with significant disabilities to reach successful post-school outcomes. The Institute has carried out this mission in such a phenomenal way, which has pushed the paradigms of traditional methods and provided us the tools and the inspiration to create services that challenge our young men and women to new levels of independence in helping them reach places never dreamed before.

“It was an honor beyond words,” added Kelly, ”to have BOCES 2 as the first educational partner for Project SEARCH™ and one of the most satisfying and illuminating experiences in my career.”

This fall, Project SEARCH™ sites will open at the City of Rochester and Wegmans.

Hazeldene Hercules, Executive Staff Assistant to Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy, said “The City of Rochester is ready to embrace the mission and vision of Project SEARCH™ in September 2010, when we provide employability skills training to students with disabilities so they can obtain a brighter employment future.

Hercules attended the 4th Annual Project SEARCH™ Conference in Miami in July. “I was tremendously impressed with the depth and breadth of the Conference.  There were 415 attendees representing 39 states and 4 countries including Australia, England, and Hawaii.  I visited the City of Miami Project Search program and the excitement and dedication of the staff were contagious.“

“The target for a community our size, said Costello, “is five worksites, each with 12 students a year embedded in the business culture.”

The Institute hopes that by 2013, 144 individuals in Monroe County will have received training and employment opportunities through Project SEARCH™.

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