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Kessler Foundation Mentors Disabled Students

The West Orange foundation hosts students from a Livingston high school to teach them interviewing and job hunting skills.

Lauren Scrivo, the communications specialist at the Kessler Foundation, met with three students from Horizon High School on Wednesday to talk to them about improving their job interviewing skills.

Horizon High School serves students ages 14 to 21 with multiple disabilities.

Scrivo is 26 and recently completed her master’s degree. But she understands some of the challenges facing the students because she also uses a wheelchair and a breathing tube.

She offered tips to Moses Marte, 19, who said he wants to work as a carpenter, after building sets for the school's March production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

"You should also interview for the theater company," Scrivo said. "You should always keep your options open. Even if you can't build a house right away, its really good to remember for your other interviews to show pictures of what you done."

The event was part of the Kessler Foundation’s “Mentoring Disability Day,” a national day to help disabled persons learn how to find work.

Scrivo told Marte that she always brings her portfolio of stories she has written to show prospective employers. Marte said he appreciated the tips.

Denise Fyffe, a research scientist in the spinal cord injury laboratory at the Kessler Foundation in West Orange, interviewed Timesha Jeffrey, an 18-year-old Horizon.

Jeffrey showed off her art patterns on t-shirts and towels that she sells at a CVS in Livingston, and she she wants to be a teacher after spending time with her nieces and nephews.

"My four-year-old niece is my angel, and I helped teach her ABC's," Jeffrey said, later singing a moving song with the lyrics, "If you love me, you complete me."

She insisted that everyone know that her classmate, Schneider Sainval receive credit for helping with all her creations.

Gwendolyn DeIorio, senior administrative assistant at Kessler, said seeing the students learn, and seeing Scrivo’s accomplishments are inspiring.

"To see someone overcome multiple disabilities and achieve what all of us are capable of - that's what its all about," DeIorio said.

Scrivo said meeting with students "is really rewarding.”

“As a person with disablities. I am happy to help future job seekers. Working here, I see the research going on, and changing lives, and also help with these employment programs.

The Kessler Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with physical and cognitive disabilities. The foundation works very closely with the Kessler Institute and even share some space with them, however, the foundation is a non-profit and the institute is not.

The Kessler Foundation also awards grants to organizations that create or expand job opportunities for people with disabilities, Shrivo said. Disability Mentoring Day is one way to help decrease the 21 percent employment rate for people with disabilities, Scrivo said.

Students with a disability may not know what options are ahead when they try to look for work, and if employers will see their talents instead of a disability, Shrivo said. The program aims to help students have the skills and confidence needed to present to employers, and find what jobs are available, she said.  

As a result of the Foundation's grant funding, more than 2,000 individuals with disabilities received job training or found employment in the past six years, and the largest grants are now awarded nationally, she said. 


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