Project SEARCH offers special needs students career opportunities
High school graduation is a milestone in any student’s life. For students with special needs, however, wondering “what comes next” can be daunting. Through participation in the Project SEARCH High School Transition Program at Beaumont Hospital, Troy, these students get a good start on the path to a career after high school.
Project SEARCH is a business-led, one-year school-to-work program for post-secondary students with intellectual and developmental disorders who are between the ages of 18 and 26. The program is a joint venture between Beaumont Health System, Oakland Schools, the Troy and Hazel Park school districts, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Jewish Vocational Services and the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority.
The program takes place entirely at the workplace, with a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training through three worksite rotations. Beaumont, Troy graduated 14 students from the program in the 2011-2012 school year, and has nine students enrolled in the current school year.
“Students spend an hour in the classroom each morning, learning the skills needed for employment, such as resume building, interview training, on-the-job training, code of conduct, grooming, problem-solving and critical thinking skills,” explains Carolyn VanNoord , Project SEARCH teacher with the Troy School District. “The goal of the program is for the students to gain work experience that will give them the skills necessary to obtain a paying job in the workforce.”
To date, four Project SEARCH graduates have been hired at Beaumont, including 20-year-old Kaylie Jaynes, who works in Patient Transportation. “She did what she needed to do during her internship, plus more,” said VanNoord. “The supervisors would try to challenge her and she would just rise above their expectations each time.”
Kaylie even earned the hospital’s Eagle Eye award for an important catch she made while on the job. Taking a mother and baby to discharge, Kaylie noticed the mother was not wearing the required wristband to be discharged. Kaylie called a discharge nurse to verify that the mother and baby belonged together, and then gave the mom the appropriate wristband.
“Kaylie is a ray of sunshine,” says Pam Kinsler, manager of the Patient Transportation department. “She comes to work every day with a positive attitude and always wants to do her best. Project SEARCH has yielded beyond successful results at Beaumont, Troy. The administration and staff really embrace the students and are so willing to help them grow as employees and individuals. The program has a tremendously positive impact on our staff.”
For Stephanie Martin, 24, a 2012 Project SEARCH graduate who now works part-time as a housekeeper in the Environmental Services department, being employed at the hospital has given her a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of purpose.
“I really like it because I’m around people and it gives me something to do,” she says. “My mom, dad and sister all work, so if I didn’t have this job, I’d probably be home by myself. I’ve learned a lot. I keep my focus on my job because if I do it well, maybe someday I can do another kind of job, like the people I see walking by every day.”
Stephanie comes in at 6:50 every morning and prepares her housekeeping cart for the day. Then, she begins her route, which takes her up and down the hospital’s “main street,” keeping the restrooms clean and sparkling. “This was a new skill for me because I hadn’t cleaned bathrooms at home, so the Project Search job coaches and my supervisor at Beaumont taught me how to do it.”
Stephanie has also learned valuable people skills, engaging with staff and visitors she encounters along her way; if one of the restrooms is closed for cleaning, she helpfully directs visitors to the next closest location. “I used to be nervous telling people the restroom is being cleaned, but now I’m used to it,” she says with a smile. “I really like coming to work every day.”