The Project SEARCH program is a nine month school-to-work program for students with disabilities on the campus of The Evergreen State College. Started in 2009, it exists as a collaborative effort between Morningside/The Evergreen State College/Olympia School District, funded in part by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
The goal for each student is competitive employment at a business in the community using the transferable skills they can acquire at Evergreen. A seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and on-the-job training generate positive employment outcomes. The program provides internship experiences. During the year, students and staff work to remove any potential barriers to employment. This provides young adults with disabilities resources to make successful transitions from school to productive adult life. Students build communication skills; learn how to ask questions when meeting potential employers, as well as give presentations in the community. Problem solving techniques are developed as students learn to identify and overcome issues that impact their ability to be independent. These skills are learned while interning, where they work Monday thru Thursday, in four hour shifts.
Just as students have to interview for an internship, they have to submit a two week resignation letter at the end. They are given formal feedback from their supervisors in person at least twice during the ten weeks while they work for the department and if appropriate, a positive reference. While working, students have access to a Job Coach. A Job Coach may assist them with filling out an application, learning a particular task, or building a working relationship with co-workers. During the course of the year, student’s gain independence and Project SEARCH staff support reduces, shifting to focus on opportunities in the community.
Internship sites vary greatly across the campus of The Evergreen State College. To date internship locations have been developed at approximately 25 different work areas. Students may have the ability to work in the daycare center, residential housing, dining, facilities maintenance, grounds and motor pool, recreation center, key shop, bookstore, and various office settings. At these locations they can learn skills from customer service to custodial to cashiering. During each of the three internships they complete they will test their skills, interests, and abilities in new ways.
Project SEARCH has generated positive outcomes and can boast that every student who has chosen to look for work has found it, with some help along the way. If you are interested in learning more, tours are provided frequently during the months of February and May. There are plenty of opportunities for the community to be involved, from giving a tour at your place of employment, providing information on resources or techniques that may enhance the program, or simply giving students an opportunity to share information on what they have been learning over the course of the year.