Able Trust


Organization Profile: The Florida Endowment Foundation for Vocational Rehabilitation operates under the name of The Able Trust, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public/private partnership established by the Florida Legislature in 1990. The Able Trust receives its funding from a perpetual endowment, grants, gifts and support from the public and corporate sectors. The Able Trust’s mission is to be a key leader in providing Floridians with disabilities successful opportunities for employment. The Able Trust accomplishes its mission through grant programs, public education, public awareness, and policy recommendations. Since its establishment, The Able Trust has awarded nearly $30 million in grants throughout Florida, enabling approximately 2,000 Florida citizens with disabilities to enter the workforce each year. The Able Trust’s High School/High Tech (HS/HT) and other youth programs provide career development and transition services to about 2,000 students with disabilities each year, helping to reduce the dropout rate and prepare young adults for life beyond high school.

Program Summary: The Able Trust operates the statewide Florida High School/High Tech (HS/HT) initiative, part of a national program model designed to help youth with disabilities transition from secondary school to postsecondary opportunities, including education options and entrance into the workforce. The goals of the Florida HS/HT Program are to reduce the high school dropout rate for youth with disabilities, increase their enrollment in postsecondary education, and increase their participation in employment-related activities that lead to technology-related careers, as well as other career paths. HS/HT helps youth with disabilities understand, explore, and prepare for technology-related career pathways—including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)—through hands-on, career-focused, applied, and contextualized learning. All of the activities implemented by Florida HS/HT sites are based on the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth’s (NCWD/Youth) transition framework, outlined in the Guideposts for Success.

The Able Trust organizes Florida HS/HT sites by county. Local organizations (including centers for independent living and other nonprofit organizations, school districts, workforce boards, and others) implement the HS/HT program in 37 counties (of Florida’s 67 counties). Annually, more than 1,500 students in over 100 high schools statewide are linked to a broad range of academic resources, career development opportunities, and on-the-job experiences that will enable them to meet the demands of the 21st century workforce.

HS/HT began in Florida in 1995 when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the Kennedy Space Center provided funding for three years, later extended to five years, to establish a local program at the Space Coast Center for Independent Living in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Four years later, in 1999, The Able Trust recognized the value of the program, and hired a HS/HT state coordinator to support the development of a statewide HS/HT program.

Shortly after HS/HT began to expand in Florida, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) provided significant funding to support the growth and success of the HS/HT program model, including HS/HT sites in Florida. In 2003, ODEP awarded one-year implementation grants to five states, including Florida, with the potential of up to four years of additional funding. ODEP granted these funds to help state-level coordinating organizations to work in partnership with their state workforce investment boards to implement the HS/HT model statewide. ODEP funding, along with addition funding from The Able Trust, assisted in the creation of additional local programs in Florida. By the third year of the ODEP grant, over 850 students were enrolled in HS/HT in the state of Florida.

States of Operation: FL


Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: Florida HS/HT provides career preparation and work-based experiences through activities in school, after school, on weekends, and during the summer to fully maximize opportunities for HS/HT students. These include internships with such high-profile organizations as the University of Florida Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department and the Kennedy Space Center. As a result of a The Able Trust’s partnership with Workforce Florida (the state’s Workforce Investment entity), HS/HT sites are able to use federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) dollars to pay for internships for many HS/HT participants. Further, five local HS/HT programs are administered directly through local Workforce Investment Boards.

Employers across the state are very active participants in HS/HT activities. Some support HS/HT financially through grants and internship stipends, while others support efforts with training and collaboration in the schools and through workforce centers. Nearly 1,000 employers serve as host sites for Disability Mentoring Day job shadow activities, serve as mentors, attend career fairs, and attend HS/HT events as guest speakers.
Youth Development and Leadership:

Service Learning: Through HS/HT service learning activities, students have the opportunity to explore careers, develop job skills, engage with mentors, learn about national service opportunities as a postsecondary option, connect to local resources, access paid summer internships, and create change in the local community. In 2004, The Able Trust’s Florida HS/HT program created the Project Impact initiative with Volunteer Florida, Inc. Project Impact engages high school and college students with disabilities in learning about their community by applying a service learning philosophy to hands-on volunteer experiences. Each spring during Project Impact, students at several HS/HT sites learn how to develop service learning projects. These projects culminate in the observance of Global Youth Service Day. Project Impact partners include AmeriCorps (state and national), SeniorCorps, Florida Learn and Serve, and several Florida colleges and universities.

Personal Leadership Development: Each year, several HS/HT students attend leadership development events sponsored by the local site, or state level organizations. The Florida Youth Leadership Forum (YLF), another youth program of The Able Trust, is well-attended by HS/HT student leaders. (HS/HT students represent about half of the delegate and junior staff.)The YLF is an annual career and leadership training program that is both educational and motivational, bringing together rising high school juniors and seniors each summer to spend a long weekend in Tallahassee to learn about community and academic resources, disability history, career options and personal leadership. They also take part in social activities which enable them to network, learn from each other and build friendships that will last a lifetime.

Mentoring: In 2010, The Able Trust was a recipient of funding from the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) for expansion of mentoring services benefiting two organizations operating nine local HS/HT programs. This national model, known as the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program was initially funded for up to three years by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. RAMP is a STEM-based, career-focused mentoring program for youth with disabilities. RAMP provides one-on-one, small group, and peer mentoring opportunities, as well as chances to work together in small groups on high tech, community service, and leadership projects. Like HS/HT, RAMP is based on the NCWD/Youth transition framework, outlined in the Guideposts for Success.

Connecting Activities: As the coordinating agency of HS/HT in Florida, The Able Trust collaborates with state agencies and private organizations on several councils and task forces, helps coordinate fundraising, facilitates the formation of partnerships to foster community engagement, identifies career mentors for HS/HT students, and connects with HS/HT programs outside of Florida to gather and share innovative strategies.

In order to form an enhanced statewide support system for local HS/HT sites and their students, Florida HS/HT works in close collaboration with the Florida Department of Education’s (DOE) Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), Workforce Florida, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Children’s Medical Services, Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged, Volunteer Florida, recreation organizations (including Florida State Parks and the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association), secondary and postsecondary institutions, civic and corporate partners, and other state agencies who serve and advocate for the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Florida HS/HT encourages each local HS/HT site to connect with their local Workforce Investment Board and their local DVR provider. State level staff provide ongoing technical assistance and opportunities for introductions between agencies in order for sites to connect with additional program resources. The Able Trust accomplishes this through the development and dissemination of literature and resources, a frequently updated password-protected coordinator resource website, and arranging opportunities for sites to network with other agencies at an annual training, statewide career fairs, and other workshop venues offered by partner organizations.


Systems Change: The Able Trust uses a competitive process to establish local HS/HT sites throughout the state. Organizations such as Centers for Independent Living, Goodwill Industries affiliates, local Workforce Investment Boards, school foundations, and other community-based organizations respond to a Request for Proposals. The first year, The Able Trust awards organizations with $40,000. Once established, the sites receive step-down funding of $20,000 per year. As a result, local sites work in collaboration with The Able Trust HS/HT staff to find alternative funding. For example, when WIA Youth Activities funds in Gainesville were designated for teen pregnancy prevention programs, one of the Gainesville area HS/HT sites submitted a proposal that incorporated a pregnancy prevention component into the HS/HT curriculum. The proposal was approved and provided the additional funding needed to sustain this HS/HT site.

The Able Trust secures funding from a variety of sources to support the continuation and expansion of HS/HT, including a collaborative effort between Florida HS/HT, the Florida DOE, and Florida DVR. As a result of these efforts, the state legislature established a line item in the state budget to provide $500,000 of state-appropriated funds in fiscal year (FY) 2006 to support the expansion of HS/HT to 10 additional sites. The legislature approved reduced appropriations in FY 2007, FY 2008, FY 2009, and FY 2010. In addition, DVR provided $120,000 of its FY 2008 funding to support the 13 local HS/HT sites administered by six centers for independent living throughout the state.

Florida HS/HT, in collaboration with the NCWD/Youth, provides technical assistance to other states working with or interested in implementing the HS/HT model. For example, Florida HS/HT has worked closely with South Carolina’s Vocational Rehabilitation Department to implement HS/HT throughout the state. Workforce South Carolina, the state workforce investment board, provided $200,000 as seed money to start five local HS/HT sites in the state. South Carolina now has 10 local HS/HT sites and has served over 340 students.

Florida HS/HT was one of three state-level HS/HT programs involved in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration’s (ETA) Shared Youth Vision Initiative. In 2006, ETA issued guidance to One-Stop Centers, emphasizing their responsibilities in serving youth, including youth with disabilities. ETA and its federal partners created a process to help states convene interagency groups to create a youth vision for the state and develop a strategy to move that vision forward. In 2007, ETA awarded grants to several state workforce investment boards, including Workforce Florida, to target specific geographic areas within the state and specific populations of youth. Florida HS/HT actively participated on the state team, called the Strengthening Youth Partnership. As a result of additional funding through Workforce Florida, two additional HS/HT programs were created in 2009 specifically to serve incarcerated youth with disabilities and youth with disabilities in the foster care system in Okaloosa, Walton, and Miami-Dade Counties, representing the first pilot program in the nation using the HS/HT model to address the transition needs of youth with disabilities in the foster care system.

Data: On average, 86% of the Florida HS/HT program’s graduating seniors continue their education or enter employment each year. Of the 492 HS/HT high school graduates in 2010, 29% entered community college, 12% entered employment, 10% entered a four-year university, 12% chose to attend a technical school, two percent entered the military, 17% entered a postsecondary work experience, nine percent continued high school as fifth-year seniors, five percent were “undecided,” and four percent chose “other options.”

Organization Name: The Able Trust
Organization Director: Susanne Homant, President/CEO
Program Name: Florida High School/High Tech
Street Address: 3320 Thomasville Road, Suite 200
City: Tallahassee
State: FL
Zip: 32308
Phone Number: (850) 224-4493
Phone Extension: 227

Contact Person: Allison Chase
Contact Title: Vice President of Youth Programs
Contact E-mail: