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ROSIES Foundation Helps Those With Disabilities ‘Give to Grow’

[additional-authors]
September 25, 2019
Teren’e on the bus at the Orange County Fairgrounds. Photo courtesy of ROSIES

The nonprofit ROSIES Foundation that helps people with disabilities access meaningful work is offering an eight-week apprenticeship program, HirEd, in late October. The program will focus on building professional and personal skills to obtain market-wage jobs through peer-to-peer collaboration and mentorships. Following ROSIES’ motto, “Give to Grow,” apprentices will be provided with the tools to overcome obstacles, drive initiatives and train others.

ROSIES Founder and Chief Encouragement Officer Lee Chernotsky told the Journal, “A huge obstacle for many people with disabilities is that sometimes we need to be explicitly taught key practical skills, such as appropriate communication, teamwork and self-awareness. ROSIES’ holistic approach creates opportunities to develop talent and design programs with people and the employers hiring them to realize the value and power of diverse abilities.”

With almost 20 years’ experience working with people with disabilities, Chernotsky added he “discovered how empowering it is to be able to remove an obstacle, not for — but with — someone who might be more impacted by their challenges, regardless of the cause.”

ROSIES hopes “to give people with diverse abilities opportunities to learn why accessibility and awareness need to be core competencies at work, in schools and more importantly, in everyday life,” he said.

ROSIES has arranged trainings and employment opportunities for people with diverse abilities through Authentic Interactions (AI) technology. ROSIES provides people with the necessary skills to be able to pursue additional jobs “across several industries, some even launching their own entrepreneurial ventures,” Chernotsky said.

Board member Courtney Mizel told the Journal, “ROSIES’ interest in helping individuals discover themselves … and [giving] them opportunities that they may not otherwise be afforded is really along the lines of tikkun olam. How do we make the world a better place? We give more people meaning in their life, we help people in the community understand people who are different than they are, and we help people work alongside one another.”

Through ROSIES’ social enterprise arm, POP!, the organization provides crew members (previous apprentices) with meaningful employment opportunities. For example, ROSIES worked to transform a school bus into an ice cream truck, becoming the first ADA accessible food truck in the United States. Partnering with renowned brands, such as The Bigg Chill and Little West juice maker, ROSIES sells various products out of its truck at large-scale or privately catered events around Los Angeles County. 

A former ROSIES crew member from Los Angeles, Teren’e Chambers, told the Journal, “Lee was very impressed [by my] customer service, selling people hot dogs and/or ice cream. Because of ROSIES, that’s how I got [my current job in retail] because I’ve done customer service and handling money.”

“What I learned from my bubbe Rose, a Holocaust survivor, about perseverance, empathy and belief in everyone’s potential is at the core of what ROSIES is about.”

— Lee Chernotksy

As a 24-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome going into her senior year at UCSB, Chambers said, “It’s hard for me to hunt for a job out in the working world, and ROSIES foundation is one that actually [helped me to find] a sustainable job … and I was very surprised about that. “Since [I found] a job at ROSIES, it’s [made me] feel like I’m very productive and … very busy, making sure that I get paid enough, making sure there is no discrimination … that we’re all equal, that I belong.”

The organization has impacted the community by contributing to an “increased number of people with disabilities in paid employment at ROSIES and/or in our growing network of employment opportunities [and an] increased amount of wages earned by people with disabilities, giving them the ability to both spend and save money for the future,” Chernotsky said.

“Everyone needs a place where they feel a sense of confidence in their abilities,” he added. “Daily challenges I experience because of ADHD make me feel anxious, uncomfortable and overwhelmed in settings or situations where attention to detail is a priority. What I learned from my bubbe Rose, a Holocaust survivor, about perseverance, empathy and belief in everyone’s potential is at the core of what ROSIES is about. My grandmother taught me that if you give more than you take, there is a tomorrow.”


Melissa Simon is a senior studying journalism at University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a Jewish Journal summer intern.

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