Press Releases

Bender Leadership Academy Awarded $300k Grant

Pittsburgh, PA – July 6, 2020 – Bender Leadership Academy was recently awarded a $300K grant from the Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust through the PNC Charitable Trust to support work preparation, skills certification and leadership programming for students with disabilities. Thanks to this grant, Bender Leadership Academy will be able to expand programming for students with disabilities throughout the southwestern Pennsylvania region, including Allegheny, Washington, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, Fayette, and Westmoreland Counties.

Joyce Bender, CEO of Bender Leadership Academy is grateful for the opportunity to positively impact the lives of students with disabilities in the southwestern Pennsylvania region. She shared, “The grant from the Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust will enable the Bender Leadership Academy to continue the crusade of educating high school students with disabilities, by preparing them for the world of work and instilling competencies that will help them be successful, as they establish and pursue career goals. Funds from this grant will raise the bar for the students with disabilities, including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to see they do matter and increase their self-esteem. We applaud the commitment of the Edith L Trees Charitable Trust to young people with disabilities, a group often ignored.”

Program Information – Programs funded through this grant include work preparation and certification programs that will help students with disabilities build fundamental skills and competencies desired by employers. Programs focus on bridging the gap between school and work for youth with disabilities, building marketable competencies and empowering participants to have a sense of self-efficacy and civic responsibility. Through our continuum of learning, Bender Leadership establishes the building blocks for success while directly impacting the opportunity to grow skills, increase self-assurance, and establish understanding of professionalism in the workplace. These programs will increase the employability of students with disabilities, provide them a competitive advantage, and improve productivity and retention rates in the workplace, ultimately increasing their chance for advancement.

To complement the Bender Leadership Academy’s virtual platform, our technology-based delivery solutions engage youth with disabilities in meaningful and productive ways to deliver essential curriculum; and apply innovation to standard teaching methods to ensure safety and well-being of program participants, instructors, and student support associates. Our history of applying agile programming adapted to a variety of communities and facilities, combined with technical expertise and support through partners uniquely positions Bender Leadership Academy to continue to provide supports while social distancing and other health safety protocols are introduced during this Coronavirus period of uncertainty.

Programs funded through the Edith L. Trees Grant, listed below, are inclusive and serve students who are blind, deaf, living with a mobility or neurodiverse disability, as well as students who have mental health, intellectual, developmental or other nonapparent disabilities.

Prepare for the world of work through a series of activities and employer-based experiences. Engage in practice interviews, public speaking exercises, and employer visits. Grow understanding of employer expectations, professional conduct, and teamwork. Explore career options, gain self-awareness, and develop personal health and wellness competencies.

Bender Student Leaders
Develop public speaking and leadership skills, while learning how to engage with colleagues professionally in the workplace. Includes components of resume building, interviewing exercises, and speaking assignments as well as anti-bullying curriculum. Develop skills in initiative, collaboration, customer service and build an increased understanding of civic duty.

Bender Career Navigation Certification
Understand how to be self-aware of current abilities, establish goals, and create a job search plan. Develop skills for coping, resilience, and self-actualization. Certification levels include skills inventory, learning and career goal-setting, resume building, interviewing and social networking.

Gain career competencies and marketable experience by participating in internships, work-based learning opportunities, career invitationals, and FromGig2GreatTM project-based deliverables. Realize successes while learning about goal setting, teamwork and meeting employer expectations while engaging in real-world experiences.

International Computer Driver License (ICDL) Certification
Develop relevant employer-valued certifications to demonstrate computer competency. Build web technology and MS Office task bar skills. Enhance effective communications, consistent habits in work and delivery, and collaboration skills.

National Retail Federation (NRF) Customer Service Certification
Gain relevant employer-valued credentials in customer service. Develop skills in active listening, conflict resolution, and ensuring customer satisfaction. Increase competency in communication, work consistency and delivery, and teamwork.

Develop essential competencies in the field of digital accessibility, building skills in testing mobile applications and websites, and making documents accessible. Learn digital accessibility basics, including global standards, understanding of assistive technology tools, and standard accessibility analysis tools. Develop competencies in analysis, documentation and communication, and effective mitigation skills within an interdisciplinary team.

Salesforce Trailblazer
Build competency with Salesforce, a tool that integrates support for marketing, sales, commerce, and service. Successful individuals can go on to receive certifications as a Salesforce administrator, advanced administrator, marketing cloud administrator, configuration, pricing and quoting specialist, and platform app builder.

About Bender Leadership Academy – Bender Leadership Academy delivers competency building programs that enable students with disabilities to engage in educational, empowerment and work opportunities, celebrate successes, and set and achieve career journey goals. Established in 2018, Bender Leadership Academy is founded on a commitment to serving the disability community, with a focus on the value and abilities each person can contribute to the workforce. Beginning as a volunteer mentoring program with the single purpose of helping youth transitioning into the workforce, the organization is now multi-faceted with programming that provides a comprehensive approach to addressing barriers to employment.

About Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust – The Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust is a private foundation in Pittsburgh, PA. Founded in 1970, the trust provides grants to organizations that support the care and welfare of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This trust honors Joe Benedum Trees, the only son of Joseph Clifton and Edith L. Trees. Joe Benedum Trees was a person living with disabilities, including autism and mental disabilities.