There was no question that the COVID-19 pandemic would change the Project SEARCH program at Licking Memorial Hospital.
But as student interns and instructors recently reflected on the past year, they shared some pretty impressive lessons and experiences.
In its fifth year at LMH, Project SEARCH gives young adults with disabilities the opportunity to spend an entire school year as interns at LMH, gaining the training and soft skills they need to transition from school to adult life.
When the pandemic started in March of 2020, that group of interns finished the year by meeting virtually.
But when the 2020-21 school year began, a new group of students returned to the hospital to complete their three internship rotations.
Several rotations were altered to make sure interns avoided direct contact with patients. An unexpected positive aspect was this kept interns on the move like never before, said Tina Angeletti, Project SEARCH instructor.
Not only were new internship positions introduced, but the interns were given the opportunity to travel to other LMH properties, including its Pataskala campus.
Several of the interns provided valuable support to the hospital’s COVID vaccine clinics, helping to take temperatures, check people in and collect documentation.
Some of the interns also had the opportunity to use the program to explore future careers.
Nicole Waters, who attends Watkins High School, has aspirations of being a teacher’s aide. So on Tuesdays she has been spending time at the Southwest Licking Preschool program, Tina said.
Tina said she’s also planning to take some interns to visit some local industrial parks so they can consider other types of jobs.
Another first for the program came in April, when Licking Memorial Hospital was presented with a Diversity and Inclusion Champion Award from the Community Intercultural Relations Conference (CIRC) planning committee. The award was presented in a virtual ceremony during CIRC’s annual conference.
As the year comes to an end, and graduation approaches, we met with the nine interns one more time and gave them the opportunity to share their plans for the future.
After spending time in the Environmental department, Cody, who attends Newark High School, has had the opportunity to have two different internships in the Maintenance and Engineering department. At first he worked indoors in the workshop and now he’s helping out with the grounds crew.
It is clear that he loves working outside.
“This is his element,” Tina said.
Matthew “Matt” Gast
Finishing up his third rotation in LMH’s Concierge department, Matt has also spent time in the Maintenance and Engineering and Environmental departments. His knowledge of tools allowed him to take on jobs that other interns hadn’t previously done, Tina said.
Matt, who attends Newark High School, said he’s interested in learning how to weld and is looking at educational programs. He also enjoys working outdoors.
Natis, who attends Newark High School, was one of the interns that got to experience a brand new rotation. He was selected for a position in the hospital Safety Director’s office. A pro at data entry, he became known for being lightning fast — entering about 4,000 pieces of data in just a day.
Alexander “Alex” Cagney
Alex, who attends Newark High School, spent time in the Purchasing and Culinary departments before taking on his last internship in the Environmental department.
He said that his favorite internship activity was doing food prep in the Culinary department.
Alex is known for being very conscientious of time and dedicated to tasks, Tina said.
“He doesn’t quit, even when the work is hard,” she said.
Aidan, who attends Granville High School, spent time interning in Maintenance and Engineering and the Oncology department before ending his Project Search experience in Culinary. He is looking for a summer job to get some more experience.
Olivia, who attends Lakewood High School, spent her three internships in Sterile Processing, Acute Rehab and Labor and Delivery.
Her favorite rotation has been Labor and Delivery, where she likes putting together packets and preparing rooms for patients.
Christina “Chrissy” Emmenegger
After completing three internships, in Culinary, the Concierge and Acute Rehab departments, Chrissy, from Northridge High School, is planning to attend college. She was accepted to Central Ohio Technical College and hopes to study photography.
She’s used some of her time in Project SEARCH to interview several photographers about their jobs to understand more about what that career would be like.
Gabriel, who attends Licking Heights High School also spent time interning in the Culinary and Purchasing departments as well as Acute Rehab. He said he enjoyed Acute Rehab the best.
Nicole spent time in the Concierge and Labor and Delivery departments while also helping out at COVID vaccine clinics. After she completes Project SEARCH, she’s hoping to get a full time job and attend school part time to pursue her goal of working as a teacher’s aide.
Project SEARCH is a partnership between LMH, the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, the Licking County Educational Service Center and Greenleaf Job Training Services, Inc.