Project SEARCH is a one-year, total workplace immersion vocational training program that helps individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities learn the necessary job skills to become competitively employed. Interns do several rotations in various med center sites.
"It's our biggest class yet," said Chris Miller, Project SEARCH instructor for the Madonna School. "We've grown each year. It's been a new, fun challenge to continue to grow and work with more students each year and see how we need to spread out to help them."
A new partnership with the Omaha Public Schools expanded the age range of the program, Miller said, with interns aged from 20 to 36.
Ian Froemming, MMI Employment Services Liaison, commented about the wide age range. "By adding a new partnership with Omaha Public Schools, we were able to have students in their last year of transition and adults working together, side by side mimicking the natural workforce. This site is the only mixed site like this in the state."
The program added new internship sites this year, including the OpPOURtunity Brew Coffee Cart funded by the Munroe-Meyer Guild and three internships with Cardinal Health, a Nebraska Medicine contractor that provided training in supply chain management and shipping-receiving.
The ceremony also saw the first "Mike Lentz Award," named for a former intern who passed away after a battle with cancer.
"Mike Lentz impacted everyone at Project SEARCH and a lot of people here at the hospital," Miller said. "He's what every intern should reach for as far as work ethic and positivity. So to be able to continue his legacy, make sure that every class knows about him, to continue to make sure that the hospital remembers him, it's hugely important. He was an important person in our lives."
The next Project SEARCH group will start at the med center in late August, Miller said.
Partners in the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine Project SEARCH program include the Munroe-Meyer Institute, Madonna School, Vodec, Omaha Public Schools, Sodexo, Cardinal Health, the Nebraska DHHS-Division of Developmental Disabilities, Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation and the Assistive Technology Partnership.
Love Love this Program! This is an Amazing Gift to This Community! 3 Cheers to those who participated and a Shout Out to the Staff, that with their passion and heart, were able to make this Program Grow!!Amazing! And a Special Shout Out to Tara Harper, my niece, for always, always recognizing and embracing the Special Needs of the Many and making their Voices Heard! Thanks to All!! Kathe Strand MSW CSW (ret)
Congratulations to these hard-working students!