Hadley School for the Blind Announces New Blinded Veterans Initiative

Hadley School for the Blind

Hadley School for the BlindInitiative Supported by $300,000 Gift from Goldman Sachs Gives

On Veterans Day, November 11, 2011, The Hadley School for the Blind, an international distance education school based in Winnetka, Ill., will announce the launch of a new Blinded Veterans Initiative.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are an estimated 158,300 legally blind veterans and 700,000 veterans with low vision. In addition, approximately 7,000 veterans become newly blind or visually impaired each year from non-combat related causes. Compounding the problem is that approximately 70 percent of working age Americans who are blind or visually impaired are unemployed or underemployed.

In response, Hadley’s Blinded Veterans Initiative will educate and inspire blind or visually impaired veterans to pursue their personal and professional goals and help support their families.  Veterans coming to Hadley as a result of this new initiative will be able to enroll in any of 100+ distance education courses. Core subject matters emphasized through this new initiative include business and entrepreneurship, technology, independent living skills, adjustment to blindness and braille literacy.

The program is tuition-free for all visually impaired veterans and their family members, thanks to the support of Goldman Sachs Gives, a donor-advised fund. The gift was made at the recommendation of John Willian, a managing director at Goldman Sachs and Winnetka native whose family has shown a legacy of support for the Hadley School.  Managing directors have supported the firm’s veterans initiative, a five-year, $20 million commitment announced in December, through Goldman Sachs Gives, which has formed partnerships with the non-profit community to focus on helping returning, wounded service men and women integrate back to civilian life.

“The Hadley School’s initiative will be a great tool to help visually impaired veterans get back into the workforce by providing them with a unique set of resources they couldn’t otherwise access,” said Willian.  “We are pleased that this gift from Goldman Sachs Gives will allow Hadley to provide vets and their families with the education and skills they need to be active participants in the American workforce.”

The Hadley School for the Blind has a history of serving students who are veterans since WWI but the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have resulted in an even greater demand for Hadley’s services. According to the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), an estimated 17 percent of all injuries incurred in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are vision-related. This new generation of veterans represents a growing market of individuals in need of education and coping skills to resume their former role, often as head of the household. 

Former Hadley student Steve Beres, who will assume the position of executive director of the BVA in December, will be in Winnetka to officially launch the new initiative at the Veterans Day Observance. Beres served in the U.S. Army as a Special Operations Officer, including numerous combat tours in the Middle East, until becoming totally blind due to a traumatic injury in 2002. He has taken a number of Hadley courses, including braille instruction, technology and business curriculum.

“Hadley provides lifelong learning opportunities that reinforce and extend the skills veterans learn in the rehabilitation process,” explains Beres. “Hadley is especially strong in providing accessible resources to help you get back into the workplace.”

The new Blinded Veterans Initiative will also complement Hadley’s recently launched Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship (FCE) designed to provide individuals who are visually impaired with the knowledge, resources and networking opportunities to advance in their careers or start their own business. On November 11, Hadley will activate a new “Veterans Benefits” module as part of the Center. This module will demystify the complexity of veteran benefits including disability compensation, pension, medical care benefits and survivor benefits.

“There are many courses and programs about how to get into business, but there was no curriculum on how someone who is blind or visually impaired can make those programs work. The Blinded Veterans Initiative will address those issues that are specific to people who are visually impaired,” says Urban Miyares, founder of the Disabled Businesspersons Association and Hadley’s new Veterans Outreach Specialist. As part of the new initiative, Miyares will travel around the country networking with his business and veterans colleagues to encourage enrollment at Hadley.

“We are very proud and honored to support those veterans who have served our country and their families. This new initiative will enable blinded veterans to regain the confidence and independence they need when they come home from the front lines,” says Hadley President Chuck Young.

About The Hadley School for the Blind

Founded in 1920, the mission of The Hadley School for the Blind is to promote independent living through lifelong, distance education programs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, their families and blindness service providers. The school currently enrolls 10,000 students in all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Hadley relies on contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations to support its award-winning curriculum.  For more information, visit www.hadley.edu.

About Goldman Sachs Gives

Goldman Sachs Gives is a donor-advised fund—a public charity that maintains individual accounts for donors who recommend grants to qualified non-profit organizations from their accounts. Established in 2007, Goldman Sachs Gives enables Goldman Sachs and its people to leverage their donations to charities in the communities where they live and work, or elsewhere around the globe. The focus of this contribution is on those areas that have been proven to be fundamental to creating jobs and economic growth, building and stabilizing communities, honoring service and veterans and increasing educational opportunities.