Starting in August of this year, UVM Medical Center will become an official Project SEARCH host site, offering a group of high school seniors with developmental disabilities the opportunity to serve in unpaid internships in areas around the organization, learning specific marketable work skills.
This program is made possible through the collaborative efforts of UVM Medical Center, South Burlington High School and the Howard Center, and aims to demonstrate how this inclusive work experience benefits us all.
The Project SEARCH program will be piloted in the following areas: Facilities, Nutrition Services, Finance, Supply Chain and Human Resources. Each of the interns – who are selected through a competitive process that includes an interview and job skills test – will participate in three 10-week internships in the areas identified above.
The criterion for acceptance reflect the primary goal of the program, which is to ensure success for the participants and for the organization. “We are looking at things like, do they have the basic skills to build on?” says Cathie Buscaglia, of the Howard Center. “Can they take direction? We want to set them up for success.”
Framing the workday will be classroom support, with a teacher and two career coaches from the Howard Center, who provide direction and coaching, tailored to each participant’s needs.
The goal is to help these young people find competitively paying jobs in the community with a minimum of 16 hours/week by the end of the year.
Beyond that, though, there are the immeasurable benefits for all involved. Buscaglia has seen immense rewards for staff working alongside these young people. “From their first day to their graduation, it is truly amazing to see these students be transformed by this experience. But, in addition, it’s also been rewarding for the people working alongside these students. It’s remarkable to see!”