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Elizabeth Redford, 32 

Co-founder and Executive Director of Next Move Program

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Scott Elmquist

Elizabeth Redford has always been the type of person who chats with strangers while waiting in line. And it's a good thing, too — had she not introduced herself to the woman standing behind her at a fundraiser in 2011, she may never have come across transition services for young adults with disabilities, a field she says is still relatively new.

Redford began her career as a special education teacher, and she wanted her students to leave high school with meaningful, relevant life skills and preparations for the job market. In 2012 she left the classroom to work for the job-readiness internship program she learned about at that fundraiser, which she and Mary Townley took over a year later and expanded into its own nonprofit in 2015. Next Move works with more than a dozen local businesses to provide practical, on-site job training for students with special needs, and she says the benefits go beyond the students themselves.

"It's a way for businesses to invest in inclusion and diversity in a very supported way," she says.

The unemployment rate among young adults with disabilities is around 70 percent, and about 80 percent of students in the internship program have gone on to find either employment or further education opportunities in the Richmond area.

One of Redford's passion projects is Tablespoons, a program that teaches students with special needs to bake in a professional kitchen and then sell their products at the farmers market. Next on the horizon? A brick-and-mortar bakery, coming soon to Forest Hill.

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