A program new to South Dakota this year is helping high school graduates with disabilities learn job skills while on the job. It's called Project SEARCH and is collaboration between nearly a dozen agencies. Nancy Naeve Brown tells us, you won't have to search long to find out how this great partnership is working out at Avera McKennan.
20 year old Gabby Volk is one of the 8 students who were selected to partake in Project SEARCH. A unique business-led transition program for students with disabilities in a place they normally wouldn't get job coaching. That place, in this case, is Avera McKennan Hospital. Keri Statema is the Project SEARCH program teacher.
Keri says, "The main goal for project SEARCH is for competitive employment and building skills in a safe and protected environment."
The program runs the same hours as a school day and year. The students meet in the morning in a classroom set aside on the rehab floor of the hospital to go over mental math; like balancing their checkbooks or how much their lunch might cost in the hospital cafeteria.
Gabby Volk says, "I really like teachers. My favorite part has to be in the classroom."
And then it's off to work. For Gabby that means helping on the pediatric floor by restocking food and supplies in the kitchenette that patients' families can use and cleaning medical equipment.
Keri says, "They are excited to come to work everyday. It's phenomenal to watch them grow as individuals."
When she is done stocking the kitchen Gabby will come over to the play room on the pediatric floor and de-germ the toys people have used. She wipes all of them down with alcohol wipes.
Julie Benz Assistant VP of Orthopedics, Neurosciences and Rehabilitation at Avera McKennan says, "For any of us, when you go to look for a job, it's having some experience that is that little edge-up into a job and sometimes that's very different you have a disability for one to feel comfortable to go in to those kinds of interviews and two to have the experience and this puts that on their resume."
If you've done an internship you know the training is indispensable. If you've spent any time with these go-gettem' can do students consider yourself lucky the experience is invaluable.
The partners of Sioux Falls Project SEARCH are: South Dakota Department of Labor, Vocational Rehabilitation, Division of Rehabilitation on Services to the Blind and Visually Impaired, Transition Services Liaison Project, Department of Developmental Disabilities, East Dakota Educational Cooperative, Freedom to Work Project, South Dakota Rural Health, Avera McKennan and Achieve.
The best way to find out more is to talk to the special education director in your school district.
Project SEARCH Teacher
Classroom Phone: (605) 322-5071
Work Cell: (605) 322-5072