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UW-Stout News Story

UW-Stout receives $4.6 million federal grant to aid youth with disabilities

October 9, 2013

The Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute at University of Wisconsin-Stout will receive $4.6 million the next five years as part of a federal grant intended to help thousands of youth who have special needs gain economic self-sufficiency.

SVRI is in the Vocational Rehabilitation Building."This is a major grant for our institution," said Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen. "It is a tremendous recognition of the long tradition we have at UW-Stout and at the SVRI in helping people with disabilities improve their lives."

SVRI will participate in a $32.5 million grant allocated by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs. The grant will be administered by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, part of the state Department of Workforce Development.

The title of the program is PROMISE, or Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income. The money will be spent to assist youth who receive Supplemental Security Income to overcome barriers they may face in finding employment.

SVRI will work closely with DVR to provide leadership with outreach and recruitment activities. Participants will have access to services including career exploration, community work experience, financial literacy training, social and soft skills training and family training on employment expectations.

It is estimated that 2,000 youth and their families will participate over the course of the grant period; participants will be randomly assigned to treatment and control groups of 1,000 each.

Mary Hopkins-BestOther activities that SVRI will conduct under the grant include:

- Provide oversight and management of the project research and evaluation in Wisconsin.

- Develop and maintain a website on behalf of the project to highlight grant activities, promote the dissemination of materials and findings and integrate social media.

- Provide statewide training and support for curriculum that teaches workplace readiness soft skills for youth.

"Being selected as a key partner in the PROMISE grant is a testament to SVRI's long and storied role in conducting critical research and developing evidence-based practices that move individuals with disabilities toward independence," said Mary Hopkins-Best, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services. "We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with our key state partners in the development of systems to improve outcomes for youth with disabilities."

John LuiJohn Lui, executive director of SVRI, says the grant program has many benefits.

"Improving financial awareness, job readiness, employment opportunities, career development options and employment supports for youth with disabilities and their families may subsequently reduce future reliance on public benefits and provide opportunities for economic mobility, poverty reduction and systemic cost savings," Lui said.

Cayte Anderson, SVRI associate director, said the grant will "help youth with disabilities and their families address poverty and disability issues and move toward employment and financial stability." Working with the state partners, she said, "We have an opportunity to advance efforts on behalf of youth with disabilities who want to work, contribute and fully participate in society."

More information about SVRI is available here.

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