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Kessler Foundation Grants $438,000 to Improve Employment for College Graduates with Disabilities

WEST ORANGE, N.J.—Kessler Foundation awarded a $437,888 Signature Employment Grant to San Diego State University Research Foundation to expand the project, “Bridging the Gap from College to Careers”—an initiative to increase employment outcomes for college graduates with disabilities. The grant is part of more than $2.7 million distributed by Kessler Foundation to organizations around the U.S. to create or expand job training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The program incorporates a professional development course created at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB), which has been endorsed by the California Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS). The course will be implemented through a partnership of UCB, San Diego State University and California State University, Fullerton.  Mentorships, internships, work experience and job development will be provided to college students in their final years of undergraduate studies. A business advisory committee will also represent corporations and national business alliances. The project’s goal is to help college students successfully transition to meaningful careers after graduation or following post-secondary education.

“More people with disabilities are pursuing their education and graduating college,” said Elaine Katz, senior vice president of the Program Center at Kessler Foundation. “They are just as knowledgeable and qualified as graduates without disabilities. However, they still have difficulty finding good jobs. Kessler Foundation is proud to support this initiative to help these highly motivated individuals to gain work experience and begin careers. We foresee that this model will be one that can be developed through the state of California and nationwide.”

PolicyWorks, a national nonprofit organization, will coordinate the project and establish a team to monitor progress and provide feedback to the project partners. Recommended curriculum revisions and the most effective components will be incorporated into an instructional toolkit and web-based technical assistance resource bank to be used by college campuses and organizations in California and nation-wide.

Participants will be recruited through the campuses, DORS referrals, peer mentor outreach and social media outreach. Goals of “Bridging the Gap from College to Careers” are for at least 80 percent of students to gain workplace experience or internships and 75 percent to either enroll in graduate school or attain employment.

Signature Employment Grants are Kessler Foundation’s largest grants. Awarded for a period of two years, Signature Grants range from $250,000 to $500,000. This is the third year that the Signature Grants were available to organizations nationwide.

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit


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