SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — First Lady Casey DeSantis announced a new program to help families with special needs as part of Hope Florida during a press conference at the New College of Florida on Thursday.
The program will offer jobs and two full scholarships to families that are part of the Hope Florida initiative.
“New College is going to be the first one, who is going to be an employer support. So now they are going to be working with the agency for people with unique abilities. They’re also going to be working with the Department of Children and Families to be able to hire folks,” DeSantis said at a gathering of supporters at New College.
The program is providing a job to Crystal Aviles, who has special needs. She is now working in the New College library, and her aunt says the experience has been a game changer for the entire family.
“She was home doing nothing because she was already done with school, and they were able to bring her to the community and get her volunteering at a library,” Avile’s aunt, Wilma Marrero, said, adding that the job is giving her niece a sense of purpose and pride.
“She has coworkers and she’s proud of her job,” Marrero said.
New College will also provide two full scholarships to people who are part of the Hope Florida program.
“We have veterans, elderly, kids who have aged out of foster care,” New College President Richard Corcoran said Thursday.
He says the scholarships may provide a generational change for some families.
“They can come get a world-class education at probably one of the best schools in the country,” Corcoran said.
Hope Florida was created by Casey DeSantis and was first launched in 2021. Since then, a number of state agencies have implemented the program.
According to a press release, the initiative has served more than 74,000 people, helping 8,500 Hope Florida participants reduce or eliminate reliance on public assistance to meet food or cash needs.