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Project SEARCH school-to-work program

On Monday, September 29, 2014, more than 60 community members, school district and Central Peninsula Hospital (CPH) personnel, and families attended the annual Kenai Peninsula Project SEARCH open house to meet the team, three new interns, and past graduates. A national Project SEARCH award based on employment outcomes was presented by Patrick Reinhart, director of public policy, Governor's Council on Disabilities and Special Education.

Now in its third year, Project SEARCH is a high school transition program for students—interns—with disabilities. The Project SEARCH program at CPH targets individuals whose main goal is competitive employment. "Since the partnership began three years ago we have had an open house to share our program and interns with the community," said Fran Stetson, Project SEARCH teacher. "Success is not done alone, it takes the community—family, friends, agencies, and businesses—with positive thinking to accept and give the interns a chance to prove themselves as competitive employees. CPH is an excellent training facility where our interns learn job skills, customer service, and workplace etiquette in order to give them the opportunity of real life exposure in the working world. I am so proud of the community for hiring Project SEARCH interns and the support that has grown each year as more people learn about this great vocational program."

Three intern perspectives

"I would say that Project SEARCH is a program that is definitely worth the time and the effort. It is the kind of program that, depending how much work is put into it, will be rewarding and most certainly will catch the attention of employers in the future for anyone that is interested in it; because nothing says valuable worker more than experienced worker." – Forrest Henry, intern

"As an intern my challenge in Project SEARCH is memorizing room names or numbers for Environmental Services (EVS). This program teaches life skills and the mentors I work with are great. Learning housekeeping skills will help me get a job doing custodial work." – Chris Petrovich, intern

"No matter how bad your disability is don't let it hold you back from your goals in life. I let my disability hold me back but then I realized that I can overcome it. So I decided that Project SEARCH is the way to do it. Project SEARCH is helping me reach my goal to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)." – Acacia Fisher

  • L to R Back RowJennipher Dorman, Vincent Chavarria, Patrick Reinhardt,
    Doug Grzybowski, Liz Cristiano, Dillon Tondre
  • L to R Front Row: Sarah Mohorcich, Katherine Flanders, John Dodd, Fran Stetson,
    Jim Childers
  • Not Pictured:Denise Kelly and Natawni Hammack
 

National award

Project SEARCH recognizes program sites that have achieved sixty to one hundred percent employment outcomes within their respective program's school calendar year. Central Peninsula Project SEARCH achieved one hundred percent employment for the first two years. Each student was employed in an integrated setting year round, had sixteen hours per week and was paid a prevailing wage. At the 2014 Annual Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, USA, 110 program sites from twenty-six states and three countries were recognized for achieving sixty to one hundred percent employment for their 2013 program graduates. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is proud to have Central Peninsula Project SEARCH graduates in competitive employment.

"One of our on-going challenges is to ensure that our students with disabilities make a smooth transition to life after high school," said Dr. Steve Atwater, KPBSD superintendent. "Project SEARCH is thus, a wonderful way to help us meet this challenge."

The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a total workplace immersion, facilitating a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and relevant job-skills training through strategically designed internships, and can accommodate up to ten students. Through a series of three targeted internships the students acquire competitive, marketable, and transferable skills. Students also build communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills which are important to their overall development as a young worker. The goal: independent adults prepared for competitive employment opportunities.

Kenai Peninsula Project SEARCH is made possible through the collaborative efforts of Project SEARCH Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Central Peninsula Hospital, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, the Governor's Council on Disabilities and Special Education, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Frontier Community Services.

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