Program Helps Students Plan Future

Written by Peggy Brown – Waverly News

WAVERLY – Cheryl Ladd has seen where the project, now in its third year, has benefited recent graduates who need a bit more learning before deciding what they want do to.

The project is one that she is happy that School District 145 supports.

“Project SEARCH helps provide education and training to young adults with learning and physical disabilities through an innovative workforce and career development model that benefits the individual, workplace, and community,” she said.

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RINGING IT UP: Paige Kirby works the cash register in the Heart Hospital’s cafeteria. She is one of many from Waverly High School taking part in the Project SEARCH program. (Staff Photo by Peggy Brown)

The goal is for each student participant in Project SEARCH is competitive employment, she pointed out. Ladd is Project SEARCH instructor.

This semester students from Waverly, Norris and Malcolm are working at Nebraska Heart Hospital in Lincoln.

“They come in each morning and we talk to them about things such as budgeting, applying for jobs as well as everyday living,” Ladd said.

From there they take off for their positions around the hospital. They work in cafeteria, distribution, data processing, environmental and linen, and human resources. The teachers remain at the hospital for the day and periodically check on students as well as talk to their floor advisors.

“It is very time consuming for us, but we see great success from it,” Ladd said. Out of the eight students they had last year five are employed and three are still being interviewed. Last year she added they worked at St. Elizabeth Hospital.

“Our goal is really to teach them how life is after school. They want to move out and be on their own so this is a way to teach them and give them a realistic look at what its like.”

DISTRIBUTION: Brooke Smith works in distributing and stocking drawers with medical needs at the Heart Hospital in Lincoln. Smith is from Waverly High School and is taking part in the Project SEARCH program. (Staff Photo by Peggy Brown)

DISTRIBUTION: Brooke Smith works in distributing and stocking drawers with medical needs at the Heart Hospital in Lincoln. Smith is from Waverly High School and is taking part in the Project SEARCH program. (Staff Photo by Peggy Brown)

She added that the parents have been very supportive of the program. They see first hand, Ladd said, how their child becomes more sure of themselves.

“Its scary and starting out on your own can be hard, but with this program we are working to make it easier for them.”

She said that the students would graduate from the program in May. “Several are all ready working on their resumes and have been using time they have when they returned to school to sit in the library and work on them.”

The project model involves an extensive period of training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, job coaching, and continuous feedback from teachers, job coaches, and employers.

“As a result, at the completion of the program, students are prepared for employment in complex and rewarding jobs,” Ladd said.

For the participating businesses, the presence of a Project SEARCH High School Transition Program can bring about long-term changes in business culture that have far-reaching positive effects on attitude about hiring people with disabilities and the range of jobs in why they can be successful.

Lucinda Hinricks, who supervises Brooke Smith in distribution, said that she was a believer in the program.

“Brooke has gathered good learning skills while working here and I have seen nothing but good progression since she started. It’s defiantly a good program.”

Smith and Paige Kirby, two of the Waverly students, both commented how they have learned from being enrolled in the program.

Smith, who works in distribution, says she is more confident in what she is to do each day.

“I make sure that each room is stocked with what doctors and nurses will need for a patient,” she said.

Kirby is assigned to the dietary department.

“Sometimes I help prepare the food or run the cash register,” she said. “I have learned a lot.”

Since it started, Project SERACH has partnered with St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center, Vocational Rehabilitation, Assistive Technologies, the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Norris, Waverly, Crete, and Malcolm School Districts. This year they expanded to include internships at the Nebraska Heart Hospital.

Ladd said that in its first and second year, Project SEARCH successfully graduated ten students from the program. Of those ten graduates, five have secured job placements at Saint Elizabeth, four have secured positions within other businesses and one is attending college.

“The program is just another step in reaching students who need a bit more help,” Ladd said. “It’s been very successful.”

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