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Project Search Celebrates Nine Young Adults’ Achievements

 5/2013 Project Search
Project SEARCH participants show appreciation to leader Patti Moore with a group hug following the 2013 Project SEARCH celebration at Upper Valley Medical Center.

Taylor Stewart said Project SEARCH helped her open up and communicate better.

It also helped her land a job at Menard’s.

Stewart of Sidney was among nine young people with disabilities whose accomplishments were acknowledged during the 2012-13 Project SEARCH Celebration on May 17 at Upper Valley Medical Center.

Before Project SEARCH fear of new situations hindered Stewart’s communication, but experiences through the program at UVMC provided an opportunity to gain confidence.

Project SEARCH is a high school transition program designed to provide training and education on the road to employment for individuals with disabilities. It was launched in Cincinnati in 1996 and introduced at UVMC via the Upper Valley Career Center in 2010.

Local Project SEARCH partners, in addition to UVMC, include the Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua, the Board of Developmental Disabilities in Miami and Shelby counties, Capabilities Inc. and the state Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation. 

The goal of the nine-month program is to help each of the interns become “a more independent person” and ready to compete in the job market, said Patti Moore, Upper Valley Project SEARCH coordinator,  She works with the interns, job coaches and work site supervisors at UVMC.  Moore emphasized that the interns are not actual employees, but are “strictly students in training” during the program, with the vision of tapping into a career path.

Each student deferred receiving their high school diploma to participate in the program.

This year’s interns and their high schools were:  Jessica Dye, Bradford;  Michael Fletcher, Bradford; Brian Gold, Sidney; Luis Gonzalez-Resto, Graham; Bre’Anna Harrison-Lee, Troy; Ashley Mullins, Bradford; Ashley Shoffner, Sidney; Taylor Stewart, Fairlawn; and Ashley Weber, Sidney.

“This is one of the most amazing programs,” said Matt Meyer, Upper Valley Career Center Director of Student Services.  The Project SEARCH Interns demonstrate job characteristics he hears about constantly from potential employers, Meyer said. Among them:  being at work every day, being on time and doing the job to the best of their ability.

Jim Hurak, UVMC Vice President, noted the growth in the Project SEARCH participation from four interns the first year to nine in 2012-13.

“It is our honor, our pleasure,” Hurak said of UVMC hosting the Project SEARCH site and the rotation of program interns through a growing number of departments including rehabilitation, nutrition services, cardiopulmonary, plant operations, environmental services, Outpatient Center South and volunteer services.

Nearly 40 UVMC employees were directly involved as supervisors and mentors this past year, Moore said.  However, she added, “Everyone here makes a difference in the interns’ lives … (through) your daily treatment of them as professionals.”

Hurak said interns helped with an array of projects from greeting hospital visitors to providing directions with the closing of the Physician Office Building entrance for construction, to planting tulips along with assisting with the day to day operations in each department. “I am sure each department would have stories to share on mentoring and learning from each other,” he said. “We have a great learning experience with this.”

During the program, Meyer on behalf of the Career Center, presented UVMC with an Ohio School Boards Association’s 2013 Business Honor Roll award. The program allows schools to recognize special business partners for their contributions.

“The difference UVMC makes in these lives is amazing as well,” Meyer said. The award, he said, recognized UVMC’s commitment to Upper Valley Project SEARCH. It was presented to Hurak and Becky Rice, UVMC Vice President.