Scholarship Need: Meristem is a high touch program that is individually tailored to each student. While there is some government funding available to a percentage of our students, there remains a significant funding gap that needs to be filled so that students from all financial backgrounds can attend. Scholarships help to cover the funding gap between the program's cost and the Regional Center tuition subsidies some students receive. Increasing our ability to provide tuition assistance gives students from underserved families the ability to attend our three-year program.
On average there is a $53,000 annual funding gap for residential students and $28,650 annual funding gap for day students beyond what the Alta Regional Center subsidy covers. We are always looking for funding opportunities that will help to offset the student tuition funding shortfall so that we can continue to grow and diversify our campus and the students we serve through our program.
General organizational support: Currently in California there are no established career pathways and few vocational training programs to address employment barriers for those with ASD. Traditional apprenticeship, workforce training and internship programs do not meet the specialized needs of those with ASD. Their fixed structure and limited understanding of the nature of the disability make even moderately effective outcomes elusive. In order to bridge this gap, Meristem has taken the lead in creating an innovative and effective vision for vocational training utilizing a program that consists of part-time classroom curriculum and part-time work experiences.
We are now working to expand our current curriculum to accommodate a larger student population, enhance our existing vocational and work skills training programs and grow our outreach efforts so that we can place more students in community internships and further support our students' entry into the workforce. This grant funding would assist us in the expansion of our work experience program by:
* Broadening the offerings of the Meristem work skills program;
* Expanding outreach efforts and community partnerships so that we can offer more internship and job placements;
* Create and expand our innovative training pilot program designed to be a mechanism that provides employers with proper education, outreach, and training so that they can take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain individuals with ASD.
Expanding the Meristem program allows us to incorporate more students and offer a wider variety of hands on learning experiences while students prepare to enter the workforce or continue on to higher education, This in turn helps us create sustaining pathways to employment for individuals with ASD.
At this very moment, tens of thousands of young Californians with autism are unemployed. These young people are bright, capable, and willing to work, but it's difficult for them to connect with employers who know how to find, onboard, and retain them. The Transformative Autism Program (TAP) was designed to do just that. TAP helps California employers successfully hire and work with people with autism- and helps them become the valuable employees they have the potential to be. The program consists of in-person and online training and a summer internship program that partners with our local food bank partners. Support of this program allows our students to continue doing the volunteer work that they do feeding those who have been hit hardest by COVID-19. These volunteer efforts also provide real world work experience for our students.
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