Schwartzman receives funding to create employment mentorship program for adults with IDD

By: Elizabeth Turner

Peabody College Special Education research assistant professor and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Member Ben Schwartzman, Ph.D., recently received funding from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) to create a peer mentorship program between job-seeking adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and employed adults with IDD. The Peer Empowerment Network received $195,155 over the next two years.

Schwartzman’s grant was among $2 million in new grants and $615,000 in continuing project funding awarded by MEAF to support their new Access to Careers in Technology and the Trades Inclusion Initiative, designed to empower youth with disabilities to lead productive lives through increased employment.

“The goal of this program is to match employed adult mentors with IDD to currently unemployed job-seeking adults with IDD so that mentors can share their lived experience and success stories with their mentees,” said Schwartzman. “We hope that these peer mentorships provide unemployed adults with the support they need in connecting to paid employment opportunities in their communities.”

“Our Access to Careers in Technology and the Trades Inclusion Initiative builds off the success we have seen this past year in collaborating with our grant recipients and industry associations in replicating model disability employment programs to create a pipeline of skilled talent to access careers in high demand fields,” says Kevin R. Webb, MEAF’s senior director.

“This is the first year MEAF’s annual grant making has exceeded $2 million. We are excited to see the growth of disability employment to support a more inclusive society,” concludes Webb.

Schwartzman’s Peer Empowerment Network falls under MEAF’s Access to Opportunity Initiative. This portion of grant funding increases access to careers in technology and the trades by supporting a strong foundation of quality experiential education and awareness. The Peer Empowerment Network joins an assortment of other grant-winning projects such as support for an Emmy-winning film documentary team, career mentoring for women with disabilities, an agricultural vocational training program, and more.

“It is such an honor to be recognized alongside several other impactful programs and initiatives across the country that all share the same vision of increasing inclusion and community participation for youth and young adults with IDD,” said Schwartzman.

MEAF’s $2.6 million in grant commitments to 24 organizations will be distributed over the next two years. MEAF will also match up to $320,000 in donations made by employees in 2024 to help build inclusive and sustainable communities in the United States.

The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, based in the Washington, D.C. area, was established in 1991 by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and the Mitsubishi Electric U.S. group companies, which produce, sell, and distribute a wide range of consumer, industrial, commercial, and professional electronics products. The Foundation has contributed more than $26 million to organizations that are empowering young people with disabilities to lead more inclusive and productive lives. To learn more, visit

Last Updated: 6/19/2024 9:47:24 AM

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