THE BLOG
08/22/2013 09:02 am ET Updated Oct 22, 2013

Bridges ... A Solid Foundation for Opportunity

Years ago, when our company was first beginning to add hotels to our business, my dad would scout locations for new hotels by watching the traffic across the bridges of Washington. He would say they would never move the bridges. He knew that a hotel built near a bridge or a Hot Shoppe near a bridge would always have steady traffic, and the opportunity for new customers every day.

2013-08-21-BridgesGalaMariawcaption.jpg

How appropriate then, that so many years later, the Marriott Foundation for People With Disabilities would launch a program that would provide thousands of young people with mental, physical and cognitive challenges the training and opportunities they need to find solid employment and build their careers -- and that it would be named "Bridges From School to Work."

My brother, Richard, is chairman of the Foundation, and my son, Stephen, served on the board of trustees. They and the Bridges team have worked tirelessly to make sure the young people served by the program can find great jobs, make a meaningful contribution and be successful.

Since its founding in 1989, this incredible progrram has placed more than 13,500 young adults with more than 3,500 employers around our country, and it's still growing.

Recently, Bridges received a $150,000 grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. This grant has allowed Bridges to open a brand new office in Baltimore, Maryland, where it will fund a three-year pilot of the Bridges program for Baltimore City Public Schools. This addition brings the number of Bridges locations to nine, with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, Md., as well as Atlanta.

Each year, Bridges recognizes one young person in the program for their outstanding achievements. This year, we recognized Maria Gomez. Maria was born with spina bifida, and the challenges she has faced due to her condition made her very shy, and she didn't have much self-confidence.

When she came to the Bridges program three years ago, she told us, "People think I'm stupid -- that I can't do anything -- just because I can't walk right." Not only has Maria proved them all wrong -- she has created win after win after win!

After being placed in an entry-level position at Bank of America in Dallas, she so excelled at her job that she has been promoted three times. And her employers are so pleased and impressed with her great attitude and strong work ethic that they have gone on to hire another eight Bridges students. So, Maria has not only brightened the prospects for her own future, she has led the way for others as well. Well done, Maria!

I'm very proud of everything this great Bridges program has accomplished. And as we all look forward to celebrating Bridges' 25th anniversary in 2014, we are more dedicated than ever to making sure these deserving young people have every opportunity to realize their dreams.

I'm Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.