$250,000 Grant To Create Employment Opportunities For Disabled Students

Miami Dade College’s work program for disabled students is about to receive a significant boost.

The College received a $250,000 grant from the Able Trust on Nov. 27 to help create employment opportunities for disabled students. The College is one of two institutions to receive the grant and the funds are expected to help develop the Model for Enhanced Employment and Development Plus (MEED+) plan, an extension of the existing MEED program.

“Over the years, we looked at what the needs of people with disabilities needed to succeed in what we call successful employment— a career path,” said Susanne Homant, the CEO of the Able Trust. “Miami Dade College was particularly attractive to us because of the body of students.”

The idea to award the College the grant grew out of a visit Homant paid to Wolfson Campus in September of 2016 to speak at a conference. Once there, she took a liking to the student body.

“I saw a lot of people with visible disabilities that were comfortable,” Homant said. “People with disabilities were clearly welcome on campus.”

That led the Trust to start informal discussions with MDC in hopes that the  College would commit to applying. That took about a year before the application was officially submitted.

“When you give an organization a $250,000 grant, that’s a lot of money,” Homant said. “It took them a little while to say, ‘can we do this?’”

Another aspect that intrigued the Trust was the College’s relationships with businesses, believing it essential in providing students with quality job placements suited to their future careers.

“That was very critical to us, as that’s where the jobs are,” Homant said.

It was these factors that pushed the College, among 12 other applicants, to be awarded the grant.

Photo of new director, Helen Muniz

Throughout the negotiations, the process was spearheaded by Helen Muñiz Bermudez, the director of the ACCESS and MEED programs at Wolfson.

Bermudez co-wrote the proposal with a job developer at MDC and serves as the grant’s project director.

The dean of students at Wolfson Campus, Jaime Anzalotta, was also instrumental in getting the grant awarded. He toured Wolfson with Homant and participating in the negotiations.

The grant is comprised of both public funds raised through the Trust and funds contributed by private donors. In its implementation, the goal is to provide students with disabilities internships and career job placement within three years. The first assessment will be conducted in early June, with each follow-up falling during a six-month timeframe. The Trust will measure how many students have been placed into jobs, the number of career services offered and the amount of career workshops provided by the College.

“It’s a long-term positive effect on the economy when you put a person in a position for their skills,” Homant said.