Preparing for the Future-Spotlight on Project SEARCH Partnership with Greenwich Hospital and Abilis
January 31, 2020
In September, nine young adults with disabilities began internships at Greenwich Hospital through Project SEARCH, an internship program designed to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities. The goal of the nine-month program, a partnership between The Department of Developmental Services (DDS), private service provider Abilis and Greenwich Hospital, is to help young adults 18 to 30 years old become more independent and obtain competitive employment.
DDS Deputy Commissioner Peter Mason along with DDS Director of Day & Employment Services Amber Burke recently toured the Project SEARCH site at Greenwich Hospital with Abilis.
Nine students attend the program at Greenwich Hospital for a full school year and will graduate in May. Throughout the year, interns will receive employment skills training from Abilis Skills Instructors, and attend three, 10-week internship experiences, focused on developing competitive, marketable skills in their targeted fields. “This is pretty intense—it’s nine months of total immersion in the workplace,” said Luis Velazquez, Abilis’ Senior Director of Day Services. “We are not necessarily training people to work in a hospital,” said Velazquez. “We are building skills for any setting.”
Interns begin their day in a classroom at the hospital, where they receive instruction in everything from resume building to workplace etiquette. Then they move to their internships, where they are taught distinct transferrable employment skills in various departments including Food Service, Environmental Services, Pathology, Intensive Care and Wound Care units. At the end of the day, the interns return to the classroom to reflect on their day, discuss challenges and evaluate their progress.
Project SEARCH was founded in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and has since expanded to more than 600 host sites around the world. Greenwich Hospital is one of six Project SEARCH host sites in Connecticut.
“Project SEARCH is not just ‘go to a job and get support,’” said Stacey Green, Volunteer Services Director at Greenwich Hospital. “We are working on skills and refining those skills to make sure interns are successful.” Partnering with Project SEARCH allows Abilis to provide real-life work experience, extensive hands-on job training and classroom instruction for individuals with disabilities. “What differentiates Abilis’ program is that we will be able to offer interns better training opportunities that will help them develop transferable skills”. “We are not necessarily training people to work in a hospital,” said Velazquez. “We are building skills for any setting.”
The nine interns would agree as they relay their enthusiasm for the program and the new experiences they are receiving. Michelle Yoon, 21, is one of the Project SEARCH interns. On the first day, Yoon was hesitant, but Abilis and Greenwich staff helped her get settled in, and she says that she is already more self-sufficient now. Along the way, Yoon and the other interns are also increasing their independence, self-confidence and self-esteem.
All involved in the program agree, it’s been a great experience for everyone involved.
From left to right: Abilis intern, Michelle Yoon; Abilis intern, Abby Kroll; Abilis intern, Isabel Shaw; DDS Employment Coordinator, Marty Zaugg; DDS Deputy Commissioner, Peter Mason; Abilis intern, Dan Clarke; DDS Employment Director, Amber Burke; Abilis employee, Monica Schlessinger Smyth.