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Rodger DeRose Attends White House Jobs Summit


 Rodger DeRose, president and CEO of Kessler Foundation, was one of the 130 business leaders called to the White House by President Obama to develop creative approaches to job development. 

December 14, 2009 - On December 3, 2009, the White House convened the Jobs and Economic Growth Forum, an important step toward meeting the nation's ongoing challenges. President Obama invited leaders representing every sector of the economy to brainstorm ways to create jobs quickly as the economy slowly recovers. Attendees were assigned to one of six working groups, where they discussed optimal strategies. Rodger DeRose, president and CEO of Kessler Foundation, provided input to the session on 'Encouraging Business Hiring and Job Creation', an area that reflects the Foundation's expertise in promoting employment for people with disabilities.

Asked about his perspective of the Job Summit, DeRose said, "I agreed with Vice President Biden when he cautioned us that 'our task together is not an easy one.' But when he said, 'We've not faced this kind of economic dilemma in the lifetime of anyone in this room,' I had to disagree. People with disabilities, which comprise the largest minority group in the US, have always faced this dilemma," DeRose said emphatically. "Today, finding jobs is hard for everyone, but it's always been hard for people with disabilities. The unemployment rate for these 55 million people is much higher than 10%. Job hunts lasting for 'a year or a year and half and they still can't find anything' are nothing new for people with disabilities," he added. "At Kessler Foundation, these are the numbers that drive us to support employment and educational initiatives for students and young adults with disabilities, including veterans disabled by injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Most relevant to DeRose was President Obama's statement on the real impact of unemployment being more than a lost paycheck: "They're losing the sense of dignity and identity that comes from having a job." At Kessler Foundation, "this is fundamental to our mission," affirmed DeRose. "We know the tremendous benefits of meaningful employment for people with disabilities. Our grants support a range of organizations and programs all of which promote independence through employment," he said. Through the Army Wounded Warrior Career Project, veterans with severe disabilities are studying engineering, attending college and graduate school, working in nursing, government and education, and learning how to manage their own small businesses. A pilot project in New Jersey, Arthur and Friends Greenhouse Project, is attracting national attention for its successful model of a green business that provides training and jobs in hydroponic farming for adults with disabilities. These are just two examples of the creative ways that the Foundation is helping people enter or re-enter the workforce while meeting the workforce needs of American businesses.

Kessler Foundation also recognizes that training and education are not enough to achieve our goal of greater employment. "That is why we also promote effective sustainable partnerships between employers and disability employment programs," added DeRose. "These strategies we are using to combat the stubbornly high unemployment rates in the population with disabilities are relevant to the tough problems we are facing on the whole as a nation."