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Bethesda, Md. — June 2, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — According to the U.S. Department of Labor, roughly 33 million Americans have a disability and nearly half are unemployed. Just over 20 years ago, the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities launched the Bridges from school to work program to shrink the career gap for youth ages 17-22 with mental, physical and cognitive disabilities. Since its founding, the program has placed more than 12,000 young adults with 3,000 employers nationwide.

“Bridges students are exceptional,” said Richard Marriott, founder and chairman, Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities. “They have great potential and can make a substantial contribution to society. Thanks to wonderful support from employers and participating schools, we are able to prepare students for the employment in meaningful jobs and help them fulfill their dreams.”

Students are identified by high school counselors and paired with staff from local Bridges offices. Each Bridges representative works directly with students on resume building, interviewing skills and more to help students secure a job, travel independently to and from work, and dress appropriately. Bridges staff then work with employers to identify jobs that match the skill sets of each student. Once a match is identified, staff coordinates with all parties to ensure a seamless transition into the work place.

Bridges holds receptions each fall to award students who have demonstrated on-the-job success, individuals who regularly support and advocate on the program’s behalf, and employers who continue to provide opportunities for students.

Watch the videos of five students who exemplify the Bridges program.

Marriott Foundation Bridges is located in ten cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, Md., Atlanta and New Orleans. For more information on the Bridges program or to make a donation, visit View Bridges students on Flickr.