The HDS B.R.I.D.G.E.S. program supports the development of high-school based  social and community life skills activities designed to meet the needs of High School Students living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Structured in the form of a grant, the HDS Foundation encourages high school ESE Departments to create school-based programs that provide opportunities year-round for social, independence, community and personal development to teens who are on the Autism Spectrum or have other related disabilities. 

One of the recipients of the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. Grant is Cypress Bay High SchoolEach year students visit local businesses for Community-Based Instruction (CBI). CBIs create an opportunity for the students to be exposed to different careers and hear firsthand about the job and the skill sets that are required to be successful.  As a signature HDS Foundation program, the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. Lunch & Learn is hosted by HDS Companies each year. When surveyed for areas of career interest, the students requested IT and Networking, News Producer, and Aviation/Pilot. On April 25th in collaboration with our community partners HDS Companies hosted the entire class and the students were able to explore different career paths and environments in the selected fields through a Speakers Bureau Presentation followed by Q & A. 

We were joined by Nelly Rubio, who retired early this year following a 29 career as Director of Community Relations of the CBS Miami TV Stations. During her tenure with CBS, she was responsible for overseeing the local stations sponsorship of events and campaigns, public service announcements, community relations, and other community issues. In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, Nelly founded the station’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors disaster relief program. That project evolved into what is now Neighbors 4 Neighbors, a non-profit organization housed at the Station since 1992 that has continued to link people in need with those willing to help. 

Another speaker who came out to share his career experiences was Captain Rogelio “Roger” Figueroa, who has served for 23 years as a Boeing 757/767 Captain for UPS, based at Miami International Airport. He is a 1984 AFROTC commissioned officer from Detachment 155, University of Miami, FL; after completing undergraduate studies at Florida International University. He attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin AFB. Flying assignments include B-52H Aircraft Commander, 9th Bombardment Sqd, Carswell AFB, Tx, and HH-60 Blackhawk Pilot, 301st Rescue Sqd, Patrick AFB, FL. Since 1999, Col Figueroa has represented the AF Academy and AFROTC as an Admissions Liaison Officer throughout South Florida. In 2010, Col Figueroa served as Director of Training, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, Kabul, Afghanistan. He is a graduate of Air War College, as well as earning a Master of Liberal Arts degree from Texas Christian University, Tx. Decorations include Joint Service Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal and Afghanistan Campaign Medal. He has been married for 30 years to former Aracely Martinez; together they have two children, Elizabeth and Roger(aka RJ). 

One of the event’s highlights was a presentation by the HDS Foundation ASDY tech micro-business staff also joined in at the Lunch & Learn where they shared their journeys from High School to College and employment. It was very well received by the students, who got a glimpse into what the future hold for them. Altogether it was a fantastic experience for everyone who participated.  For all of us at HDS, the best part was seeing the Cypress Bay High School students interacting with the presenters, ASDY and HDS staff, and Board Directors. We look forward to continuing this annual tradition for year to come.