SARASOTA, Fla. — Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis was joined by Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Director Taylor Hatch and New College of Florida President Richard Corcoran to recognize October as Disability Employment Awareness Month and highlight new job opportunities available through Hope Florida – A Pathway to Possibilities. Through this initiative, New College of Florida is providing employment opportunities for individuals with unique abilities, including positions at libraries and food-service locations on campus. As the first educational institution to partner with Hope Florida, New College announced scholarships specifically for Floridians served by Hope Florida, including Floridians with unique abilities.
“Two months ago, we announced that Hope Florida will now serve individuals with unique abilities,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “In that time, Hope Navigators have already begun serving more than 100 Floridians with unique abilities. Each family’s needs vary– from building paths towards economic self-sufficiency to creating deeper community connections. Ultimately, our success is helping these individuals meet their goals and God-given potential, and we are now able to offer not only employment but scholarship opportunities to Hope Florida participants.”
New College’s new Hope Florida scholarships include two full-tuition, room and board scholarships which will be awarded annually to two Hope Florida participants, as well as additional assistance opportunities, such as book stipends. Following the event, Chancellor of the State University System Ray Rodrigues and Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. sent a letter to all Florida colleges and universities asking them to join these efforts. Click here to view the letter.
“New College of Florida is proud to partner with First Lady Casey DeSantis’ Hope Florida initiative through employment and educational opportunities,” said President of New College Richard Corcoran. “During Disability Employment Awareness Month, we are thrilled that this initiative connects us with Floridians served by Hope Florida including those with unique abilities who are looking for job opportunities and scholarship assistance.”
Ensuring there are employment opportunities for participants is a key component of Hope Florida. New College of Florida is partnering with the initiative to specifically provide jobs and educational scholarships for people with unique abilities and other Floridians served by Hope Florida. October is a key month for the developmental disability community and holds significant importance in raising awareness and promoting the employment and empowerment of individuals with these unique abilities.
“We are incredibly grateful to First Lady Casey DeSantis for her leadership and continued commitment to Floridians of all abilities, and for convening today’s event to celebrate and highlight the achievements of Floridians with unique abilities,” said Taylor Hatch, Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. “Through the launch of First Lady Casey DeSantis’ Hope Florida – A Pathway to Possibilities, individuals with unique abilities and their caregivers are now bringing their talents and passion to their local community through volunteerism and greater community involvement.”
Hope Florida – A Pathway to Possibilities, led by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, utilizes Hope Navigators to serve as a connector for individuals with unique abilities to local-community-based providers including nonprofits, faith-based organizations, peer supports and private sector business partners.
As a part of the event, First Lady DeSantis also recognized Aladdin Equipment Company, Inc. as an Exceptional Employer for their continued commitment to employing this population.
“On behalf of myself and Aladdin, we are beyond grateful to receive this award,” said Carrie Collins, the Owner and Vice President of Aladdin Equipment Company. “Hiring people with unique abilities has been a special part of Aladdin for decades because the pursuit to maintain manufacturing in the United States is our goal. Recently, working with The Haven Academy students has set the standard for Aladdin and we hope other businesses in our area. Providing opportunities for employment to these amazing individuals is important to us because they bring unique perspectives, talents and strengths to our business. We hope that in receiving this award other businesses will recognize the value in hiring such incredible individuals and will follow suit.”
“Florida recognizes that each and every one of us is a gift, and we work to ensure that every Floridian can thrive in the Sunshine State,” said State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo. “Thankfully, under the leadership of Governor and First Lady DeSantis, Florida continues to promote awareness and honor the lives of individuals with special needs and disabilities.”
Hope Florida, created by First Lady Casey DeSantis and implemented by a number of state agencies, was first launched in 2021. Since its inception, the initiative has served more than 74,000 people, helping over 8,500 Hope Florida participants to reduce or eliminate reliance on public assistance to meet food or cash needs. Over a 10-year period, participant reduction of public assistance will save taxpayers almost $190 million.