I don’t have to remind you how difficult it can be to raise a child with special needs. However, I am going to do it anyway. Along with the challenges of maintaining the daily activities we call family, a parent to a child with special needs may also have to advocate and/or or fight to ensure their child has the services they need to succeed.
Raja Marhaba is one of those parents who not only fought for her children, but also went on to create a foundation focused on helping parents in similar situations. As you will hear today, Raja understands this battle can break families and her foundation is looking to reduce the breakage.
Raja B. Marhaba is the Founder and President of The Jonathan Foundation for Children with Learning Disabilities, Inc. The motivation for establishing The Jonathan Foundation was driven by her personal struggles with having two children with disabilities and the multiple battles she endured to obtain appropriate special education and related services from their school district over a period of eight years. The result: eight due process complaint filings, including a hearing; an appeal to the Federal Ninth Circuit District Court; as well as periods of extreme financial hardship from the cost of paying for private assessments, specialized interventions, and placements, retaining legal representation, and witness fees. Thus, Raja envisioned The Jonathan Foundation to be the vehicle she would use to assist families, like her own, , in dealing with a “broken” special education system, “one child at a time”.
Since its inception in 2001, The Jonathan Foundation has provided families of children and adolescents with various types of disabilities with information, resources, referrals, and direct advocacy services by Raja in both special education and regional center matters. Moreover, Raja has developed a strong relationship with Children of the Night, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing children from prostitution and continues to volunteer her professional advocacy services to children and teens served by the organization’s programs. Driven by her personal experience and the outcomes of some of the cases in which she had been involved, Raja decided to launch the “Assessment Scholarship Program” in 2014 to lessen the financial burden families are faced with when obtaining private evaluations.
In addition to her involvement in The Jonathan Foundation, Raja is not only a licensed realtor, but also the co-owner of Martec Construction, Inc., which she runs with her Partner, Omar. She and Omar have operated Martec Construction for over twenty years. Due to her work in the company, Martec Construction has been recognized as a woman-owned business since 2003.
Raja’s educational background includes possessing an Associate of Applied Science degree from Borough of Manhattan Community College in Business Administration. Ms. Marhaba won a Scholarship to The Anderson School of Business at UCLA – Business Development Entrepreneur Program, graduated in February 2004. She also holds a certification in Paralegal Studies with a Concentration in Litigation and Corporations from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she also successfully completed the Management Development for Entrepreneurs (MDE) Program. Raja was selected and successfully completed the first cohort of the federally-funded Special Education Advocate Training (SEAT) Program in 2006. After her completion of the SEAT Program, she was selected to be a member of the Education Panel & Committee for the Juvenile Division of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, which is comprised of special education attorneys and advocates, who are court-appointed to represent the educational needs of children involved in the foster care and probation systems.
Raja continues to hold active memberships and certifications with the National Association of Women Business Owners, National Women’s Business Enterprise and Women-Owned Small Businesses. Additionally, she has earned several awards as a result of her more than twenty years of success with Martec Construction and The Jonathan Foundation. In February 2016 she received Enterprising Women of the Year Award. Her construction company made the 2017 Inc. 5000 list. Ms. Marhaba participated in Birthing of Giants Fellowship Program in June of 2018, hosted by Inc. 500., and is also one of nine extraordinary women whom have been award the 2019 L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth Award.