Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities


Program Summary: The Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities is a not-for-profit organization and was established in 1989 by the family of J. Willard Marriott, founder of Marriott International. Richard E. Marriott, chairman of Host Marriott Corporation, serves as chairman of the Foundation’s board of trustees.

The Foundation’s mission is to foster the employment of young people with disabilities. To achieve this, it developed and operates “Bridges… from school to work,” a program which places young people with disabilities who have recently exited, or are preparing to exit, high school in jobs with local employers. With a long term focus on career development, the program continues to work with these youth after placement to help them grow and advance on the job. Bridges was launched in late 1989 in Montgomery County, Maryland, where it continues to operate. It has since been established in the inner cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

Program Structure/Design: Education, training and support are central to Bridges, and central to the process of helping young people onto a career path. To prepare young adults for the workplace, the program provides orientation and training for youth and their families. To assist employers, Bridges offers coaching which addresses workplace issues such as communication, supervision and discipline. To support the placement process, Bridges staff at each program site help identify appropriate positions, match the young person’s interests and capabilities with job requirements, and provide ongoing assistance to employers and youth. Additionally, they support and involve employers, and the young adults in the program, in planning and developing vocational growth opportunities.
Bridges offers broad disability support services; they do not target any one disability type. Bridges stands by the notion that youth with disabilities can be employees with capabilities, and Bridges enhances opportunities for both youth and the employer.

States of Operation: CA, DC, IL, GA, MD, PA, TX

Youth Targeted:
• In-school youth
• Out-of-school youth
• Youth with disabilities
• Pregnant or parenting youth
• Youth in foster care or aging out
• Urban youth
• Minority youth

ODEP Funded: No
Profile Year: 2007


Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: After enrollment into the program, youth go through pre-placement training. This entails understanding employer expectations, appropriate behavior, suitable attire, and other relevant topics. These and other similar issues are the focus of an initial day of training and orientation for youth and their parents, called Youth/Parent Orientations (YPO). The goal of the one-day YPO session is to help the students and parents understand the importance of work in life, recognize the benefits of the program in bridging to work, and gain confidence in their skills, talents, and positive qualities. In addition, they explore the expectations employers have as well as appropriate interaction they should have with their employers.

The staff continues to work through these elements throughout the pre-placement period. Supports are specific to the individual situation and can include travel training, job coaching, modification of the job training process, and job shaping. The central tools in Bridges are the Career Development Plan and the Career Development Update. The Career Development Plan is developed for and with each individual project participant and is used to guide activities for the young person though his or her Bridges experience. This instrument identifies the individual’s vocational interests and goals and acts as a road map to achieving desired outcomes. It establishes the long-term career goal(s), identifies potential obstacles and needs relative to achievement of the goal(s), suggests means to address these obstacles and needs, and establishes action plans with specific objectives and benchmarks to move the young adult towards her or his goal(s). The Career Development Plan is revisited at least quarterly using the Career Development Update. Progress is measured against the previous action plans, and objectives are evaluated; if necessary, a new plan is developed at that time.

All Bridges component are focused on creating competitive employment situations as a stepping-stone to longer-term vocational opportunities. The most important element is to provide an effective job match between program participants and employers. Staff members work with the employer and the new employee to ensure that the employment relationship will eventually work independent of third-party involvement.

As part of the 18- to 24-month intervention period, the program designates the participants as having advanced after they have been placed in a job and completed at least three of the following five criteria (two of the five are required for those with severe or profound disabilities; this requires Director approval.): 1) Increase in hourly wage; 2) Increase in hours worked per week; 3) Quantifiable increase in job responsibilities or transfer to a position with such increase; 4) Pursuit of postsecondary education or training; and 5) Continuous employment for twelve months. There is no penalty for not advancing; rather, the criteria are there to monitor progress.

Connecting Activities: As part of the support services available to program participants, Bridges staff members assist youth in identifying abilities through a number of assessment tools. Staff members get to know the youth through home visits and one-on-one interactions, and together they build the youth’s job readiness and pursue job opportunities. Once the youth is placed, the Bridges staff continues to be in close contact with the youth to ensure supports for success are there.

A local program director and staff work with employers to identify potential paid work placements and job requirements, develop appropriate job matches, help company personnel work effectively with students, provide on-site follow-up support to employers and students, and offer support to encourage long-term relationships between employer and employee after the initial placement.


Management: The Marriott Foundation oversees all aspects of the Bridges program through local program directors and staff known as employer representatives. Employer representatives work with employers to identify potential paid work placements and job requirements. There are five core foundation staff members and 75 site-based staff. The Bridges site teams and all project activity are managed by the Foundation’s site Program Directors in each of seven program cities. Directors are overseen by the Foundation’s Executive Director from Marriott’s corporate headquarters. A full range of logistical support functions (including human resources, accounting, risk management, and others) are available to each city’s program.

The Foundation maintains, on an ongoing basis, an extensive and comprehensive evaluation process, including a database of services provided, outcomes achieved, indicators to identify project strengths and areas for improvement, and critical demographic data.

Staff Development: Staff members receive intensive formal and informal training that continues for many months. Initial training consists of Bridges Basics training that includes an introduction to Bridges, as well as to the program’s standard forms, file requirements, and administrative policies. Staff members must also get to know the schools they serve and the employers in their geographic region, and they shadow other staff to learn best practices in youth and job development. Training related to particular local programs is also provided.

Collaboration: The program relies on collaboration among the Marriott Foundation, the employers, the local public school systems, and local social service agencies. The Marriott Foundation oversees and directs all aspects of the Bridges program. Each of the other collaborating entities is responsible for particular areas.

Local program directors and staff (employer representatives) do all of the following:
a. Select youth for the program; assess their interests, skills, and experience; and provide coaching regarding key skills for employment success.
b. Work with employers to identify potential positions and job requirements.
c. Develop appropriate job matches based on analysis of worksite and job needs and the young person’s interests and abilities, and then facilitate the employment process.
d. Assist company personnel in working effectively with participating youth.
e. Provide on-site follow-up support to both the employer and new employee to encourage a long-term, mutually beneficial employer-employee relationship.

Employers do all of the following tasks:
a. Select managers and supervisors to facilitate Bridges involvement.
b. Work with Bridges staff to identify and analyze potential positions.
c. Interview students who are referred for positions, and make final selection decisions.
d. Utilize Bridges staff to assist company personnel in orienting, training, supervising, monitoring, and evaluating the young people who are employed.

The public school system does all of the following:
a. Identifies and recommends students with disabilities in their final year of high school for participation in the program.
b. Assists students in applying and interviewing for participation in the program.
c. Maintains regular contact with Bridges staff, provides additional support to the youth and their families as needed, and, where appropriate, integrates the student’s work experience into the school program.
Social service agencies provide a portion of funding for Bridges through contractual agreements with the Marriott Foundation.


Data: From 1990 through 2008, Bridges has enrolled over 14,600 youth, and placed more than 10,900 into competitive employment. Some 8,200 of these young people have been retained a minimum of 90 days on the job. Bridges serves approximately 1,200 youth each year.
Outcome Data, 1990 through 2008

Enrollment 14,634
Placement 10,963 75%
90-day retentions 8,278 76%
Male 8,718 60%
Female 5,916 40%
Black 8,635 59%
Hispanic 3,210 22%
White 1,692 12%
Other 1,097 7%
Learning disabled 9,216 63%
Developmentally delayed 2,104 14%
Emotional or behavioral disorder 1,440 10%
Other disability (hearing, speech, orthopedic, chronic health, or visual impairment ) 1,874 13%
Average hourly wage – initial $6.68
Average hours per week 21.20
Average hourly wage – six months post-exit $7.17
Average hours per week 26.74


Third-Party Documentation:
Bridges was recognized as an Effective Practice by the Office of School-to-Work, School-to-Work Intermediary Project in 2000 and was among five businesses honored by U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao as a recipient of her Annual New Freedom Initiative Awards in 2004. Bridges has also been written about in the following publications:
• Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin. Vol. 50, No.3, 130-138, 2007. [studing using Bridges participants to determine what factors are associated with securing employment, and the nature of the jobs that are secured.] • Career Development for Exceptional Individuals. Fall, 2000. [article highlighting Bridges by Fabian, Leuking & Tilson.] • Ability Magazine. 2000. [article] • A Working Relationship: The Job Development Specialist’s Guide to Successful Partnerships with Business. 1994. [Case study on Bridges program in book by Fabian, Luecking & Tilson]

Organization Name: Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities
Program Name: Bridges . . . from school to work
Street Address: One Marriott Dr, Department 901.10
City: Washington
State: DC

Contact Person: Linda Bender
Contact Title: Director of Administration
Contact E-mail: