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A Better Future for Children & Young Adults with Disabilities in Long Beach

Long Beach, California – Children and young adults with disabilities will have new hope and opportunities thanks to grants from two California foundations, including the Long Beach Community Foundation and the work of RespectAbility. New seed funding is being invested to support local leaders and to develop community resources that will enable more students, parents and families to succeed.

Long Beach is a beautiful city with a vibrant downtown, growing economic opportunities and a winning Mayor who is deeply committed to serving this diverse city. There are dedicated community leaders and self-advocates who are eager to make things better for their friends, neighbors and family members with disabilities.

Today there are 46,000 working-age residents with disabilities in Long Beach. Just 21 percent of working-age people with disabilities have a job in the Long Beach economy, putting the city below the national average of 34.9 percent. However, a new initiative is looking at ways to make things better for job seekers and employers alike. This effort has a special focus on filling key jobs where people with disabilities can excel.

Through a Knight Foundation grant, the Long Beach Community Foundation and and another funder are supporting RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization with deep experience around advancing opportunities for people with diverse abilities.

“The Long Beach Community Foundation initiates positive change in our community through strategic grant-making,” said Marcelle Epley, President & CEO of the Community Foundation. “We are delighted to support Respectability’s efforts through our Knight Foundation Fund. By working with local leaders, we can support our community to attract and retain people with diverse abilities, provide economic opportunities, and support civic engagement.”

Those three goals are critically linked to efforts that RespectAbility is investing in getting to know local leaders and understanding local economic conditions. “We are eager to learn from community members who want to coordinate and collaborate with each other,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, the president of RespectAbility. “We want to help Long Beach benefit from new strategies that will result in more opportunities and independence for people with and without disabilities alike.”

The group is working on a new community resource guide with detailed information about local programs and services for children and youth with disabilities. They also are preparing a toolkit with solutions based on community feedback and new proven best practices. RespectAbility is hosting meetings for local residents to get to know each other and act on these new opportunities.

“We are thrilled that the Long Beach Community Foundation is supporting this effort,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, the Policy Director who will work directly with community members. “People with disabilities want opportunities for training, civic engagement and success, just like anyone else. This effort will positively impact everyone in Long Beach from educators to students to parents to local employers.”

The local infrastructure is a key reason why Long Beach gained the attention of a national group looking to partner with leaders and turn the city into a national model.

“Long Beach has an award-winning school system and a nationally recognized workforce development board,” Kahn-Pauli added. “We look forward to helping fill gaps when it comes to employment opportunities, especially youth with disabilities. We want to find and to support local leaders with cutting edge practices and share their stories nation-wide.”

Youth with disabilities and their parents stand to greatly benefit from this work. The Long Beach Unified School District is the second largest district in Los Angeles County and serves more than 9,600 students with disabilities out of a total population of 75,000 students. The current high school graduation rate for Long Beach students with disabilities is 62.4 percent, compared to 84.2 percent for nondisabled students. In the Long Beach Class of 2016, 413 students with disabilities graduated high school, while 110 students dropped out and 76 received only a certificate.

“That cohort of young people with disabilities,” Kahn-Pauli added, “represent a talent pool that can go on to achieve great things in college and contribute greatly to the local economy.” The reason for that is simple. Because traditional ways of doing things do not always work for people with disabilities, people with diverse talents can find incredible ways to innovate and succeed. In fact, some of the greatest companies on earth were started and led by people with disabilities.

RespectAbility regularlys highlights the incredible drive, determination and creativity that people with disabilities bring to their life and work. Innovators Richard Branson and Charles Schwab like Governors Hickenlooper and Bryant is dyslexic. Arthur Young of EY was both deaf and visually impaired. Likewise, Steve Wynn is legally blind. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, scientist Stephen Hawking, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, Congressman Jim Langevin, Snoop Dog, Senators Tammy Duckworth, John McCain and Tommy the “one arm golfer” all have disabilities.

In reaching out to the business community in Long Beach, RespectAbility hopes to showcase how people with disabilities bring unique characteristics to workplaces that benefit employers and organizations. Nationally Amazon, AT&T, Bank of America, Starbucks, Pepsi, Walgreens, Walmart and others have all shown that employees with disabilities are loyal, successful and help them make more money. Jennifer Mizrahi went on to add that “inclusion of people with disabilities in the Long Beach workforce will help the city overall thrive.”

This new effort will host its first formal meeting on Monday, August 14 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Pike Long Beach Hyatt (285 Bay Street, Long Beach, CA 90802.) Marcelle Epley, Long Beach Community Foundation President & CEO will provide opening remarks at the event from 9:30a.m. to 10:00a.m. This will be the first of a series of meetings to recruit and empower local leaders to advance new opportunities for education, training, and employment in the community. Learn more and RSVP here:

Media Contact: Lauren Appelbaum, 202-591-0703 or [email protected].

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