The Syracuse City School District has partnered with Upstate Medical University for Project SEARCH, a program designed to provide employment readiness for students with a wide range of disabilities, SCSD officials stated.
Erin Riehle and Susie Rutkowski began the program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and based the initiative on an international program model.
Then, in 1996, Upstate Medical University instituted the first Project SEARCH program site in New York state.
According to district officials, Project SEARCH is in its seventh year, and the objective of the program has been to enroll high school seniors in the initiative, while in their last year of school.
The students must then maintain their high school enrollment, while also reporting to Upstate Medical, where they spend two hours learning academic, and daily living skills lessons, as well as four hours participating in a mentored internship.
All of the students’ work is hands-on, officials said, and the program’s tasks focus on building skills that will be transferable to the local job market. This year’s students have currently been interning in sterile supply, operating room materials, food service, environmental services, shipping, and central distribution.
When the program culminates, each intern will have participated in three, 10-week internships, which will result in a Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) credential from the project.
A CDOS credential, in New York State, requires 216 hours of internship participation. And, according to the district, Project SEARCH students complete their internship experience with over 500 hours.
Students in the program will also learn how to take public transportation, which will be used as a method of teaching the students independence, as well as serving as a cost-saving measure for the district, officials said.
According to SCSD, Project SEARCH also plans to maintain relationships with local employers, in an effort to continue providing students with employment in the community.
The program’s current community partners include: Upstate Medical University, Arc of Onondaga, Adult Career and Continuing Education Services – Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR), and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).
The district said at least 70 percent of last year’s students currently have gained community employment, and the first student of the 2014-2015 school year recently has been hired.