A new partnership, Project SEARCH, provides options for students with disabilities as they prepare for life after high school.
For many students, the final year of high school is a time to focus on the future.
The ten local students participating in Licking County’s inaugural Project SEARCH High School Transition Program will spend this year gaining the real-life experience they’ll need to take that next step.
Students from Heath, Granville, Licking Heights, Newark and Watkins Memorial high schools are participating in the program, designed to give young people with disabilities the training and soft skills they need to transition from school to adult life.
The collaborative program is hosted by Licking Memorial Health Systems, which has partnered with the Licking County Educational Service Center, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Greenleaf Job Training Services, the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities and area school districts to bring the program to Licking County.
“This gives students another option as they transition out of high school,” said Holly Shellogg, director of employment supports at the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “It allows them to build various skills — focusing on communication, problem solving and customer service — and learn specific job duties to become independent in a competitive job.”
Led by an instructor, job coaches and directors and managers within LMHS departments, the students receive a combination of classroom instruction, career exploration and on-the-job training.
Students spent the month of August completing orientation and will continue to work on employability and functional skills in a classroom setting. But the majority of their time will be spent completing three unique rotations in a variety of clinical and technological areas of the health systems.
The internship rotation allows the students to acquire marketable and transferable skills necessary to be hired by Licking County businesses for entry-level positions, with additional responsibilities added as their proficiency in the core areas increases. These work experiences also will help the students build communication, teamwork and critical thinking skills.
“I have seen youth with disabilities just grow and mature so much during this program,” Shellogg said. “It’s just amazing.”
In addition to serving as the host site, LMHS will provide uniforms to all of the students, as well as transportation, via Licking County Transit Services, for those who need it.
The Licking County Foundation donated funds for one of the program’s co-founders at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to provide on-site training and to reimburse each student for their footwear.
The long-term goal of Project SEARCH is to provide a set of transferable skills to people with disabilities, which will result in a diverse group of motivated job seekers for employers throughout Licking County. At the completion of the program, students will be prepared for competitive employment and have assistance obtaining complex and rewarding jobs.
The success of the first year will not only encourage more students to participate, but inspire local businesses to hire trained, competent employees, Shellogg said.
“Not only do the youth obtain the skills and really grow from this program, but the host business can also see the advantage of hiring young people with disabilities and how they can contribute to the workforce,” she said.
For more about Project SEARCH, go to projectsearch.us.
Photo credit: Licking Memorial Health Systems