“I loved wearing hospital scrubs and working with my supervisor,” explained Marquale Johnson, a Project Search student at Upstate Medical University. “Without this program, I’d be a couch potato.”
Johnson’s comments get at the heart of Project Search’s purpose. It’s a year-long program that helps young adults with disabilities become acclimated to work environments so they can get jobs and have productive work lives. To be eligible, students must be at least 18, have completed three years of high school, and have an individualized education program (an IEP, the document for public school students who need special education).
From Monday through Friday for nine months, Johnson and seven other Project Search interns — all of whom were students of the Syracuse City School District — had career training and classroom study at Upstate Medical University. Their days started at 7:50 a.m. with class, followed by job training from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and additional classroom work until 2:45 p.m. Their job training took place in nearly 20 Upstate departments including environmental services, operating room materials, linen and laundry, and food services. Their classroom work combined teaching job skills such as time management and communication with math and writing coursework. Their day-to-day activities were led by Christine Gutske, a special education teacher from the Syracuse City School District.
Now in its ninth year at Upstate, the impact of Project Search is impressive. Students who complete the program have an 80 to 90 percent job placement, according to Katherine Teasdale-Edwards, Project Search program coordinator and Syracuse City School District staff member. After completing the program, Project Search graduates get continued support from ARC of Onondaga and are hired at businesses throughout the community, including Upstate Medical University.
Project Search graduate Mazjalay Mickle reflects on the program: “Being part of this internship helped me become a better person. It taught me how to get along with people at work.”
The program has accepted 14 new students for the 2018-2019 school year. Upstate hosts an open house for students interested in Project Search. For more information click here.