Local student is finalist in Able Trust award

Special to the Herald


The Able Trust today announced its finalists from its regional contests in Tallahassee, Orlando and South Florida for its Annual Jeannie Amendola Speech & Research Competition. The following finalists went on to compete alongside each other in the state finals on Jeannie Amendola Speech & Research Competition on June 22, in Tallahassee, which will be judged by The Able Trust Board of Directors.

Edward Grillo, (left) from Community Initiatives High School High Tech: Oviedo High School was one of the finalists. Also participating (right) were Desiree Padua, Orange County High School High Tech: Timbercreek High School and Sharon McSwain, Gadsden Count High School High Tech: Gadsden County High School with families. Thirty students with disabilities from The Able Trust’s High School High Tech Program, which The Able Trust has managed for 19 years and now has 43 programs in 40 cites statewide, competed at the three regional contests. The Jeannie Amendola Speech & Research Competition was designed to give students with disabilities the skills that will benefit them as they define their career paths and to acknowledge their own significant abilities and talents. As part of the regional contests, competitors had to select and address one topic, using research evidence and references to back up their topic analysis and conclusions. Topics included the following: 1) What do you believe is the goal of high school and what changes must be made to the existing system to ensure this goal is met?  

2) What career are you interested in pursuing, why does this career interest you and what career experiences have you had in The Able Trust HSHT Program that helped you explore this career? and 3) The student may choose a topic to present on which they find interesting and/or are passionate about, and the topic must be relevant to a current event or area of concern in Florida. Competitors were evaluated based on an eight-point scoring rubric that focuses on three main tenets – oral communication, research and non-verbal communication.The Able Trust’s Speech & Research Competition was renamed the Jeannie Amendola Speech & Research Competition in memory of Jeannie Amendola, who passed away on December 28, 2017. She was a longtime Disney employee and a passionate advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities. She served as a leader with CastABLE, the Disney diversity resource group that promotes respect, equality, and appreciation of people with disabilities through awareness, education and inclusion. 

She also served on the boards for The Able Trust and Lighthouse Central Florida, Inc., and served as an ambassador for The Able Trust until she passed away. The Able Trust is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Its mission is to be a key leader in providing Floridians with disabilities opportunities for successful employment. 

Vocational rehabilitation is the focus of The Able Trust’s programs and grants. Making programs available to persons with disabilities helps not only them, but also local and state economies.The Able Trust supports a diversity of projects, including a statewide youth program called High School High Tech, work experience training and technical assistance, transportation assistance, career development training, employment and career path direction, and assistance to businesses as they seek the employment of people with disabilities. Since its beginnings, The Able Trust has worked with community organizations throughout the State of Florida to put thousands of people with disabilities to work. To learn more about The Able Trust, please visit AbleTrust.org and follow @AbleTrust.

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