Project SEARCH program helps students with disabilities find jobs

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — An event held Wednesday aims to help students with disabilities get ready to become a successful part of the workforce.

Mercyhealth Project SEARCH, a 10 month school-to-work program, assists with improving resumes and gives tips on how to interview effectively.

Through Project SEARCH, students like Karen Pineda are able to learn what is expected of a successful employee.

“You have to be organized, responsible, and be on-time,” she said at the event, held at the Mercyhealth Javon Bea Hospital Rockton Avenue.

Students gain practical skills, working in different internships throughout the year-long program.

“I got to actually work the medicine carousel,” said Project SEARCH student Rebekah Noble. “I got to work with my mentor, Sarah, to go deliver some of the medicines to the different departments.”

The final steps for the students, before finding a permanent job, is the pre-employment prep day, during which instructors help them finalize their resumes and conduct mock interviews.

“They’re committed to coming here and learning those different skills, because they all really want a job,” said employment specialist Brett Santiago, who works with RAMP.

Santiago says some of the students come in to Project SEARCH with the idea that they won’t be employable, but by the end of the program, he says they walk away confident that they are.

“I think our interns are kind of proving themselves, and I think it’s a little unfair that they have to, maybe, do a little extra to prove that, yes, they’re going to be a worthy employee,” Santaigo said. “Yes, they’re going to be accountable. But that’s what we’re teaching them. From day one, we teach them that you are going to find a job. No matter what. You are going to find a job.”

Pineda says she’s hoping to use the skills she’s learned through the project to find a job working with animals.

“It will help me a lot,” she said.

Project SEARCH continues to help students even after they find a job, by checking in with employers to see if they can help the interns adjust to their new position.

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