Educational Institutions

MERISTEM INC

Awaken the Possible

aka Meristem

Fair Oaks, CA

Mission

Our mission is to provide young adults with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental issues with an integrated learning experience, allowing our students to reach their full potential in work, in living and in their relationships. Using practical skills therapeutic education and transformative movement education as our method, we will also provide work based learning opportunities in the community which lead to long term, sustainable and successful employment.

Ruling Year

2015

President

Dr. Edmund Knighton

Main Address

9200 Fair Oaks Blvd

Fair Oaks, CA 95628 USA

Keywords

education, autism, disability

EIN

47-1411177

 Number

1400914061

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Specialized Education Institutions/Schools for Visually or Hearing Impaired, Learning Disabled (B28)

Autism (G84)

Business, Youth Development (O53)

IRS Filing Requirement

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Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

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Our Sustainable Development Goals

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3 4 8 9 10

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Independence

Transition to Work

Social Enterprises

Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

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What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

The nature of ASD as a spectrum disorder requires differentiated, flexible, and permeable vocational pathways. The Meristem method develops executive functioning, resiliency, independence, adaptability, social capacities, self-leadership, and other essential capacities.

Meristem's long-term objectives are as follows:
I. EMPOWERING ASD ENTREPRENEURS OBJECTIVES:
(1) Provide training in the woodwork, metals, textiles, agriculture, digital media, and landscape maintenance vocational tracks.
(2) Provide comprehensive, integrated, real-world work experiences; incorporate vocational training, technical assistance, and entrepreneurship consultancy in Meristem's community supported agriculture farm, café, bookstore, landscape maintenance, and events management businesses.
(3) Assist entrepreneurs to incubate new businesses and place them into work.

II. BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT OBJECTIVES:
(1) Establish a Technical Assistance Network Hub to develop exemplary businesses operated by ASD entrepreneurs with a network of business and community partners.
(2) Create an Outreach Network Hub to increase awareness of ASD entrepreneurial capacity and assets
(3) Provide technical assistance and advanced consultancy for autism employment training to build capacity in the workforce for social enterprise development.
(4) Establish a statewide network with the business, workforce development, and educations spheres to remove barriers to employment, create opportunities for employment, and employ young adults with ASD.

III. INDUSTRY AND LABOR OBJECTIVES:
(1) Establish an Employer Network Hub to engage industry to employ youth on the spectrum.
(2) Use the Employer Network Hub to engage labor to train and employ youth on the spectrum.
(3) Develop employer training programs to include incentive packages, job coaches, business plans, on-the-job training, and paid work experiences.
(4) Employ young adults on the spectrum by removing barriers to employment and providing resources to mitigate regression.
(5) Use Meristem businesses as models of best-practices.
(6) Develop new businesses.

The Meristem program offers services for young adults from 18-26 years of age to transition into mainstream education or the workforce. The Meristem curriculum includes the culinary arts, nutrition, carpentry, woodwork, animal care, textiles, jewelry, metal work, movement, sustainable agriculture, documentary filmmaking, and educational technology. Each student is guided to develop individual pathways through the curriculum according to their interests, needs, abilities and disabilities, and barriers to employment. The Independent Living Skills (ILS) Program includes self-care and safety, nutrition and health, community service, self-determination and advocacy, financial literacy, and extra-curricular activities.

A major emphasis of the program is to provide real-world work experiences with applied classroom training to prepare students for inclusion into the workforce. Graduates of the program are guided and supported to find work. The three-year program is developed out of regional economic contexts and workplace needs. Occupational classroom training, internships, community integrated work experiences, and sustained work placements develop professional skills and social capacities for students to realize their career pathways. The program includes a broad and diverse network of business partners. Employer training programs include how to employ young adults with disabilities, familiarizing businesses with the Meristem program, demonstrating economic returns on investment and the impact of socially responsible business partnerships.

The program is specialized and individualized to address the needs of young adults with ASD and other development disabilities. Therapeutic work is integrated into classroom learning and vocational training. Individual schedules are personalized based on vocational interests, abilities, and disabilities. The program is highly structured, self-paced, and student-directed. Guidance mentors meet with students each week to (a) identify barriers to employment; (b) provide career coaching; (c) and develop personal vocational pathways. A significant component of the mentoring program is to provide specialized therapeutic support services for successful program completion. Research and best practices for this population demonstrate that the development of “soft skills" is fundamentally essential for long-term vocational success.

Students develop a broad range of contextualized professional skills to build confidence, meet critical milestones, and provide real-world contexts. Students discover vocational abilities and remove barriers to employment through mentoring during their on-site work experiences. They complete independent and/or supported work placements in their vocational pathway in the community. Program completion is marked by sustained work in the community.

The Meristem model originates from the Ruskin Mill Trust (RMT) in England. RMT has a long history of experience and success serving young adults with ASD through seven colleges throughout England and Wales. The method has been researched, regulated, and validated having received national recognition and accolades over the last 35 years. Thousands of lives have been transformed through the approach.

The Meristem administrative team represents the highest expertise in the education and disabilities fields respectively. The program's success builds on Meristem's significant organizational assets including (1) decades of experience developing training programs; (2) experience aligning and articulating disability and educational curriculum with industry; (3) experience with employer training programs and workforce preparation; (4) existing networks and partnerships; and (5) demonstrated regional leadership.

The Meristem program boasts proven scalable structures, including aligned curriculum, assessment measures, and highly effective outcomes that have been developed over the last three decades across seven colleges throughout England and Wales. The scalable prototype includes (1) operating procedures; (2) occupational curricula, standards and work processes; (3) therapeutic methods; (4) career coaching; (5) social and life skills curricula; (6) innovative educational pedagogies; and (7) employer incentive packages and training programs.

Meristem’s customized assessment process uses a set of assessment tools we developed to evaluate each student’s practical work, social and communication, independent living, and spatial integration skills, and well-being. Baseline assessments establish each student’s learning profile and career aspirations and inform a personalized curriculum. We use regular formative follow-up assessments to monitor and modify each student’s personalized learning plan as appropriate. We conduct work transition assessments to guide us in preparing students to apply to internships, apprenticeships, and employment. Curriculums are based on best practices documented and supported by program and student evaluation tools. To date, students have demonstrated incremental progress of benchmarks in workforce readiness skill attainment and competencies as measured by these evaluations.

(1) Meristem has provided technical assistance to a teacher training college, a services company, and a production farm, guiding these businesses on how to train and employ individuals on the spectrum. (2) Meristem has successfully provided technical assistance to businesses to train and hire ASD youth. (3) Meristem has provided 5 businesses technical assistance in developing vocational training curricula, assessment tools, and on-the-job training. (4) Meristem has provided technical assistance to establish these businesses as employment training centers for ASD youth. (5) Meristem led legislative efforts (in partnership with Autism Speaks) providing technical assistance to successfully secure priority funding to train ASD youth for employment through CTE funds. (6) Meristem has completed outreach efforts educating 24 businesses on ways to employ ASD youth.

External Reviews

Financials

MERISTEM INC

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

No

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

No

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Yes

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Yes

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?

No

Organizational Demographics

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Gender

Diversity Strategies

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We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
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We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
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We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
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We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
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We have a diversity committee in place
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We have a diversity manager in place
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We have a diversity plan
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We use other methods to support diversity