The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 81% of Americans with disabilities are unemployed. Ivymount has been working to change this through our Project SEARCH program. The one-year transition-to-work program is designed to help young adults with developmental disabilities successfully transition from school to productive post-school life. Project SEARCH learning takes place entirely in the workplace.
In 2010, Ivymount School became the first non-public school serving multiple jurisdictions to become a Project SEARCH replication site using its national model. Partnering with SEEC, an adult services organization, we created Project SEARCH sites at the National Institutes of Health, Montgomery County Government, and the Smithsonian Institution. “Project SEARCH has given our young adults an option for their future. It gives them meaningful opportunities to experience a variety of work and career possibilities,” says Director Lu Merrick, who helped found the Project SEARCH program.
“Without the experiences they had while in Project SEARCH, they might not have considered that type of work or knew that it was something they liked and could be successful doing. Through our partnership with SEEC, we have learned that an intern’s potential is frequently hidden until they are given an opportunity to shine.” Adds one parent, who was interviewed for an alumni study: ““Project SEARCH provided a life-altering experience for our daughter. We are blessed to have experienced the expertise of the Project SEARCH program and that she had the opportunity to work in such a professional setting.”
The goal for Project SEARCH is competitive employment, and research shows that the program improves job readiness and increases employment rates. Together, the three Project SEARCH sites run by Ivymount and SEEC have graduated 277 interns. An impressive 200 were hired for part-time or full-time work within three months of graduation. The program has changed lives and changed minds. In the words of one employer, “I got to meet a great, competent individual who changed my assumptions about disabilities.”
Read about the first Ivymount student accepted to Project SEARCH in Ivymount Grows Up Alongside Its Students.
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