Project SEARCH Leads to Dream Job for a Rochester City School Grad
Project SEARCH® is a year-long transition to work program for students with disabilities. The City of Rochester hosts a Project SEARCH program in partnership with the Rochester City School District (RCSD), the Arc of Monroe, the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), and Adult Career & Continuing Ed Services – Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR).Over the course of a year, students participate in up to 3 internships in different city government departments. Katherine, an intern who went through the City of Rochester Project SEARCH program in the 2015-2016 school year, landed her dream job through this program. During her Project SEARCH year, she interned in Downtown Enhancement, Fleet, and the IT Department. Although it took her a few months to find a job when the program finished, she ultimately landed her dream job and has been working at a Rochester based YMCA for over 3 months now.
Katherine originally applied for a maintenance position at the YMCA; however, through the interview process, YMCA staff felt Katherine would be well suited for taking on a role in the classroom. Katherine is now working 40 hours a week as a teacher’s assistant. While the thought of taking the RTS bus initially intimidated Katherine, she now independently travels over an hour to and from work every day. The YMCA is also providing Katherine with support in the next step of her career; becoming a certified care provider. They’re supporting her while she goes to school on nights and weekends. When talking about her courses, Katherine noted, “I have problems in class. But I just ask for help. It’s going to be a long way to go, but I know I can do it.”
Katherine credits Project SEARCH for the success she has today. “Project SEARCH helped me get and keep this job. They went through what was going to be hard in life. So they were preparing me for life after school. They [Project SEARCH staff] would say, 'Hey Katherine, you know it’s going to be hard. But you’ll get through it. You need to understand that when you have a real job, you will have the support of a job coach.' They taught me I’m not alone.”
When we asked Katherine’s Employment Specialist, Charis Happ, to describe Katherine, she explained, “Katherine is hilarious and fun to work with. She was getting very discouraged about not finding a job right away, but she did not give up. She excelled in Project SEARCH and continued to show her commitment to work in supported employment with Job Path. She was always on time and ready to put in the work to find a job. We are so happy that she has been able to flourish at this job and that she is happy!”
Project SEARCH is a proven transition to employment model that works, but the Rochester business community must be supportive of inclusive hiring for the interns to gain employment after the program. In Katherine’s story, the YMCA’s belief in inclusive hiring gave her the opportunity to succeed as a teacher’s assistant. We want to give a shout out to the Rochester YMCA for recognizing Katherine’s potential and talents, and giving her wings to fly.
Katherine’s advice for anyone looking for a job is, “Don’t give up! Cause I tried to do that plenty of times. But stay on top of it. Be professional. Follow up.” Katherine noted that she got her job at the YMCA by making a follow-up phone call two days after submitting her application. Her call led to an in-person interview, which ultimately led to her job in the classroom.
The Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities at the University of Rochester Medical Center is the New York State Project SEARCH Coordinator. SCDD works with 15 Project SEARCH programs across the state of NY. If you are interested in learning more about Project SEARCH, email Kaitlyn Richardson.