One of my core business beliefs is that great companies exist for more fundamental purposes than just to make money.
At Marriott, we “open doors to a world of opportunity.” That phrase connotes how much we want our associates to grow during their careers.
But “opening doors to a world of opportunity” also applies to the non-profit Bridges from School to Work program.
My brother Richard runs this program and he’s developed a model that other companies should emulate. Simply put, it takes kids with disabilities and helps them find a job.
It’s not so simple to execute. Bridges employer representatives pull a small village together for every student -- teachers, guidance counselors, parents and employers. Over the course of two decades, Bridges has placed about 12,500 young people with disabilities in jobs with more than 3,500 employers -- companies like Ben & Jerry’s, UPS, National Constitution Center, and Marriott Hotels.
This year’s annual dinner featured Lee Woodruff, wife of ABC News journalist Bob Woodruff. In 2006, Bob was injured by an improvised explosive device while on assignment in Iraq.
Lee eloquently described what their family went through after he awoke from a five-week long coma. Hers was a story of stops and starts … of persevering and overcoming.
That’s our Bridges story, too. Our Bridges students struggle to fit in. They persevere, prepare resumes, interview for jobs and –- hopefully -- they get hired.
Lots of moving pieces have to come together before a Bridges student hears the words “you’re hired.” Stereotypes have to be erased; self-confidence raised. Nowhere is ability an issue.
As one employer said, “There should be no reason why a business should look at a Bridges student any differently than any other applicant. The Bridges program means opportunity and not just opportunity for the students, but opportunity for the employer.”
Bridges redesigned its website and produced a series of video profiles. (www.BridgesToWork.org) The stories show the remarkable transformation in the lives of our Bridges students as they cross the bridge from school to work.
I think you’ll enjoy meeting our Bridges students --Giana, Alex, Levi, Dana -- and see how they “fit in.” Leave a comment on which story you enjoyed the most.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.