- Business Advocacy
Only 13% of Californians with developmental disabilities had jobs and only 34% with any disability were employed in 2015, according to latest state data. Californians with disabilities earned, on average, $666 a month in 2016.
It was these numbers that brought State Sen. Susan Rubio and her sister, Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, to see the hope, heroes, and action steps of the AUSD LIFT North (Learning Independence For Transition) program for young adults with developmental disabilities. Partnering with the East LA Regional Center (ELARC ) to find students meaningful work opportunities though their PIP (Paid Internship Program), AUSD LIFT North young adults are empowered to be lifelong learners who contribute to the communities in which they live and work.
Telemundo 52 journalist Norma Ribeiro, whose mother was a special education teacher in Venezuela, wanted to film the recent visit of the senator and assemblymember as they saw the inspiring results of this partnership at Frida Pickles Floral Design in San Gabriel, when the sisters met some of the AUSD LIFT North students working there through the ELARC PIP program.
“Our vision is to train and employ people with special needs — we believe like flowers, people come in all shapes and sizes,” said Susan Tarka Sanchez, a botanist and co-owner of Frida Pickles Floral Design, which is also celebrated for its creative arrangements.
Ms. Sanchez and her husband, Juan Luis Sanchez Saldana, decided to become small business owners for their daughter Sofia, who is autistic. She is only 11 years old, but her parents know how hard it can be for people with special needs to find jobs when they become adults.
The LA Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Spectrum News One, and Sunset Magazine are also inspired by the compassionate vision of inclusion and unique style of Frida Pickles Floral Design, named after the family dog.
"There really aren’t many jobs out there for those with disabilities, and the jobs that are out there aren’t paid or are low-paid or maybe doing things that are high-stress like bagging groceries with a lot of lights and commotion," Ms. Sanchez said. "We wanted to create employment opportunities that are calming and that are less stressful and that help our daughter and others to really be calm and to learn something.”
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the heart of the work at AUSD LIFT North, ELARC, and Frida Pickles Floral Design.
“We want to light the way for all of us to move forward with inclusion by working together with AUSD LIFT North Learning Independence For Transition + the East LA Regional Center, and we are doing just that, “ Ms. Sanchez said. “I think we have started a movement. Our customers love us as much for our amazing LIFT student staff as for our unique floral arrangements.”
AUSD urges the community to support the diversity, equity, and inclusion of businesses who hire LIFT North students. Frida Pickles and Charlie’s Trio both hire students through the Paid Intern Program. Home Depot hires LIFT North students.