MacDonald Training Center News

MTC Project Search Adult Model Program

The MTC Project SEARCH Adult Model is a 9-month training program that creates pathways to employment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This program is in partnership with Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park, Project SEARCH, Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, RESPECT of Florida, and Vocational Rehabilitation.

Classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on experiential learning are combined for adults with significant disabilities to gain meaningful and transferrable skills and experience, resulting in increased independence, confidence, and self-esteem as they progress toward their goal of competitive employment.

ALL training takes place at Zoo Tampa so that interns can develop the skills, experience, and confidence through workplace immersion. Supportive services to include work-based, individualized coaching, home supports, and connection to Vocational Rehabilitation are available to interns to ensure they achieve their employment goals.

For additional information and/or to RSVP, please contact:
Anthony Hughes: [email protected]
Samantha Gwaltney: [email protected]
or call 813-870-1300, ext 482

To apply for the program, download the application from here, complete and e-mail to [email protected]

OR mail to the address below:

MacDonald Training Center
attn: Samantha Gwaltney, VP MTC Supports
5420 West Cypress Street
Tampa, FL 33607


Congratulations to Ashley for earning the Word 2016 Expert Certification through the MTC Excellence in Computer Education and Learning (EXCEL) vocational program. She is our first client to earn this distinguished credential.

Ashley, a native from India, is deaf. With the assistance of two sign language interpreters, Ashley was able to overcome language and hearing barriers to earn her certification.

“As I pondered her (Ashley’s) success last night my heart was filled with joy,” said MacDonald Training Center President/CEO Karenne Levy. “Ashley is a young lady who, despite societal barriers, exceeded all expectations. This was possible because of her tenacity but also because MTC provided the opportunity for her to excel.”

If you are an employer looking for a capable employee to work in an administrative setting, please consider Ashley. She will be an asset to your team! MTC will assist in all job related trainings and be available throughout employment. A diverse workforce is a productive workforce! When everyone works, everyone benefits.

Congratulations on a job well done, Ashley!

Attention Parent/Caregivers

Parents who must stay home from work to care for their adult children with disabilities due to coronavirus-related closures
may qualify for paid leave, federal official say.

The Able Trust Awards MacDonald Training Center $250K Grant
to Increase Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

MTC would like to extend a warm THANK YOU to The Able Trust for this amazing opportunity!
You can read about this opportunity here!



Congratulations are in order!

Patti Sanchez, Senior Employment Specialist received the Lightning’s Community Hero Award on Monday, February 25. Patti, on the right, celebrates with Karenne Levy, President/CEO and The Honorable Jack Gutman, MTC board member.

Patti Sanchez brings a passion and unbridled enthusiasm to the position of Senior Employment Specialist a t MacDonald Training Center. Deaf since early childhood, Patti is very well known in the deaf and hard of hearing community as an employment specialist, advocate and mentor with an established track record of finding and placing individuals with disabilities into employment. Ninety six individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing are working today because of Patti.

Since joining MTC in 2018 through grant funding from The Able Trust, Patti has placed 19 individuals into employment and ran MTC’s first summer camp for youth who are deaf and hard of hearing. In addition to the recognition from the Lightning she has won both Disability and Hispanic woman of the year awards and “gone viral” on social media sites as she advocates for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. Congratulations, Patti!

We are excited to share the link to the first speaker in our series,
Florida Stories to Inspire and Engage Learners with Varying Abilities.

Enjoy Dr. Victoria Machado’s engaging presentation Sacred Waters: Exploring the Protection of Florida’s Fluid Landscapes, in which Dr. Machado shares her passion for the environment and her knowledge about Florida’s waterways. She is currently a PhD candidate at University of Florida and is interested in state and local water issues, environmental justice, and the underlying values that promote social change.

Watch our FB for the next event in the series: Writer and historian Steve Noll, Ph.D. on Florida Transportation History: Planes, Trains, & Automobiles (& Steamboats too!) in August.

Funding for this program was provided through a grant from the Florida Humanities with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation do not necessarily represent those of Florida Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Karenne Levy Receives the Dr. George L. Spelios Leadership Award

Tampa, Fla. – The Able Trust launched Disability Employment Awareness (DEAM) activities in Orlando and announced the recipients of its 2018 Ability Awards. Karenne Levy, President and CEO of the MacDonald Training Center inTampa, was named the 2018 Dr. George L. Spelios Leadership Award recipient.

(Left to Right) Dr. Susanne Homant, President and CEO, The Able Trust; Arlene Shackelford, Board Member, The Able Trust;
Karenne Levy, President & CEO, MacDonald Training Center; and Karen B. Moore, Chairperson of the Board, The Able Trust,

The Ability Awards honor select individuals and organizations from throughout the state for their contributions to the mission of The Able Trust. The Able Trust and its partners have helped put thousands of people with disabilities to work throughout Florida, and this annual celebration allows The Able Trust to thank some of the very important colleagues who work with The Able Trust in achieving this critical mission.

Dr. George Spelios was a founding director and past Chair of The Able Trust who touched the lives of many through his passion and commitment to serve people with disabilities. As a tribute to his years of dedication and service, the Dr. George L. Spelios Leadership Award recognizes the outstanding leadership and advocacy efforts of an executive director or president of a Florida nonprofit disability organization.

Karenne Levy began the position of President & CEO at the MacDonald Training Center in August 2016 and promptly began to expand the services and programs offered. Her leadership has brought new educational opportunities for individuals on the Autism Spectrum, including programs like EXCEL, Excellence in Computer Education and Learning, a new high-tech pathway to employment with industry-recognized certificates of ability, as well as a new summer program for youth aged 14-21 that provides for continued skill development over the school summer break. She also established the HEAR Program to assist individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing with employment assistance. This program has distinguished itself in offering tri-lingual interpretation in American Sign Language, English and Spanish. Employment outcomes have doubled, leading to an increased number of individuals that have gained new independence. Her leadership has brought about outstanding partnerships with major employers in the greater Hillsborough County area, including Moffit Cancer Center, Tampa General Hospital, and Bay Care.

“The Able Trust is honored to work with Karenne and her organizations,” said Dr. Susanne Homant, president and CEO of The Able Trust. “Karenne and her staff work very hard to make sure that a job, and for many a career, are viable options for Floridians with disabilities. We are proud to call them partners in our mission.”

About The Able Trust
The Able Trust is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 1990 by the Florida Legislature and is funded through a combination of public and private dollars. Its mission is to be a key leader in providing Floridians with disabilities opportunities for successful employment. The Able Trust supports numerous diverse projects, including the High School High Tech program, youth leadership training, work experience training and technical assistance, transportation assistance, career development training, employment and career path direction, and assistance to businesses as they seek the employment of people with disabilities. Since its beginnings, The Able Trust has worked with community organizations in every county in Florida to put thousands of people with disabilities to work. To learn more about The Able Trust, please visit and follow @AbleTrust.

karenne levy

Karenne P. Levy is MTC’s new President and Chief Executive Officer. “I am privileged to have the opportunity to work with the board, staff and the people served at MacDonald Training Center. This organization is recognized for its transformational and innovative service approach. A model where people with disabilities are valued as contributing members of the community and are able to develop their talents, pursue their dreams and lead the lives they choose,” said Ms. Levy upon being appointed.

Ms. Levy is an experienced, mission-driven non-profit leader who believes in empowering people by providing them with the skills and opportunities necessary for them to lead and sustain independent lives. Ms. Levy comes to MTC from H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Center, where she led their Department of Patient Experience. Ms. Levy joined Moffitt after 14 years at Quest, Inc., a non-profit serving those with disabilities in Central Florida, where she most recently served as the Chief Operating Officer.

Ms. Levy received her Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Miami Institute of Psychology, her BA in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario, and Graduate Professional Certificate from Sacred Heart University School of Business. Ms. Levy lives in South Tampa with her family.

Ms. Levy’s appointment follows the retirement of James M. Freyvogel, President/CEO of MTC since 2001, who originally announced his planned retirement in January. Mr. Freyvogel has long been widely recognized and admired as a voice for the voiceless, a champion and leading advocate for thousands of people with disabilities and their families. He was the driving force for dynamic change at MTC over the last 15 years. He is well known in the field for leading the successful transitioning of the once sheltered workshop based organization into a community based resource and career training center for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities with broad corporate and philanthropic support.

Inspiring advocate changed careers to help find jobs for hearing-impaired

Patti Sanchez is a labor consultant, counselor and guide for deaf people who seek employment in Tampa Bay. She works with the MacDonald Training Center in Tampa. [JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ | CENTRO]

TAMPA — Patti Sánchez has worked as an auditor and an accountant for banks and other companies, but her goal always was to help other people like her find a place in the business world.

Sanchez was 7 when she lost her hearing to complications from measles and a high fever that she suffered when she was 3. Deafness turned the outside world silent for her, but over time, and with the support of her mother, she learned it need not hold her back.

“She told me I could overcome everything, and I think that’s the way it was,” Sanchez said. “She never thought that my condition made me special or different,”

Now, Sánchez teaches those life lessons as a labor consultant, counselor and guide for deaf people who are seeking employment in the Tampa area. She holds the position of inclusion specialist at the MacDonald Training Center, a private, nonprofit organization established in Tampa in 1953 to help people with disabilities of all kinds. She helps people develop resumes and prepare for job interviews, and she meets with potential employers to show them why they should consider hiring deaf people. In all she does, she works to show that deaf people have more to offer than many people believe.

“I want to guide people who are deaf to reach what they want,” Sanchez said. “But at the same time, it’s important to educate employers because there must be opportunities. In that sense, I feel proud to work for that door to open.”

Sanchez speaks English, American Sign Language and Spanish, the language of her Puerto Rican heritage. To communicate her message during one-on-one meetings, she reads lips and interprets gestures.

“We use our hands, but also our eyes, which are like our ears.”

Sanchez uses a text-voice device when communicating by phone, and she has mastered the tools of the Internet — a powerful way for her to make contacts inside and outside the state.

Sánchez, 54, graduated with a business degree from St. Francis College, New York, studied professional development and accounting at the University of Puerto Rico, and has a master’s in business administration from the University of Phoenix in Tampa.

“When I give my business card, many people are surprised to see that I have a master’s degree,” she said. “Why? We are human and we are not different.”

Sanchez teaches free American Sign Language classes at night at several locations in Hillsborough County, just one of the reasons her daughter, 18-year-old Imara Torres, sees her as an inspiration.

“My mother has always been an open-minded, hard-working woman,” said Torres, who soon will graduate from high school. “It has educated me to be a better person and above all be able to value myself for who I am. That is the best lesson.”

Dawn Squitieri, who is deaf and works in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office, collaborates with Sanchez in her sign language classes. Squitieri called Sánchez a motivating figure, saying she is always at the forefront in promoting job opportunities and community integration events.

“We have in common that we love to help people who are deaf and hard of hearing,” Squitieri said. “We grew up in New York and we are always supporting our community.”

Rosa Rodríguez, a Puerto Rican who works as coordinator of the Literacy Program for the deaf in the Pinellas Public Library, values Sánchez’s dedication to helping deaf people achieve.

“There are none like her,” said Rosa, who has been with the library for more than two decades. “She is always helping people and organizing initiatives for the community.”