LIMA — Ten participants celebrated finishing the St. Rita’s Project SEARCH program with a graduation ceremony at St. Rita’s Medical Center.
Through internship programs, disabled students who are seniors at area high schools can work a variety of jobs to help them learn to independently manage their time, work as a team and take direction from mentors.
“The whole goal is competitive employment,” said SEARCH instructor Leigh Taylor.
Students participate in three 10-week internships over the year in a variety of fields, including housekeeping, the grounds department, medical records, distribution and kitchen help, just to name a few. The transition to work program has been highly successful in its first three years. The program has saw 90 percent and 80 percent of its participants gain employment after graduation the first two year, and eight of the 10 from the 2016 class have already landed jobs.
“The students love it,” Taylor said. “They feel important, and they can keep doing a job until they perfect it.”
A class of 12 will begin the 2016-2017 program in August. Taylor said anyone wishing to participate can sign up during an open house that will be held in January.
John Stout, one of the graduates, has already lined up a job with St. Rita’s in central transport. He will take patients to places they need to go around the hospital.
“I learned a lot, and I am ready to get started,” Stout said.
He has already made plans for his first paycheck.
“I plan to spend it all,” he said.
Stout’s twin brother, Jacob, also graduated from the program. He did his internships with the grounds, fitness center and central processing departments.
“I learned a lot, like taking care of money and being on time for work,” Jacob Stout said. “I really enjoyed planting flowers with the grounds department.”
The program is open to all seniors who have met graduation requirements and who have a disability.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or at Twitter@LanceMihm