ST. MARYS — Parents and their disabled children learned about the benefits of Project Search internships during an open house at Otterbein-St. Marys. Currently Project Search is in the first year of internships at Otterbein.
Project Search is a national program that gives internships to eligible disabled students ages 18-22. The internships help them learn workplace skills and access training needed to present those skills to possible employers, said Kathy Jeffries, project search instructor at Otterbein-St. Marys.
“We work on teaching them skills that can be used at other places,” she said. “We do three unpaid internships and they run ten weeks.”
The internships begin in August with two or three weeks of orientation. During that period the interns go through the same pre-employment process all Otterbein employees do before being hired. After orientation is complete the interns begin their first internship — one of nine different positions including building and grounds, business office, food service and other positions at Otterbein St. Marys, Jeffries said.
The interns work directly with Otterbein employees, which are referred to as partners, Jeffries said.
“They get the full benefit of the partners,” she said. “We work with them in an individual basis. Once they’re trained to do the job, we work with them to learn it.”
After their first 10-week internship ends, they go through transition week before beginning another internship. At that time, they do the process once more before finishing the program after the third internship, Jeffries said.
“He’s really grown more independent,” said Jenni Schaub of her son, J.T. Lucia, who is a current Project Search food service intern at Otterbein. “They teach them to do different jobs. The second half of the day they teach them how to be good employees and fill out job applications. It’s a great program. I hope it sticks around.”
Zack Goodwin is the current building and grounds intern and he is very excited and proud of his position.
“This has been a great experience out here,” he said. “It’s helped me build more confidence and more work skills.”
Goodwin works at a local rest area when he’s not working at Otterbein for his internship. He said the internship has helped him learn how to deal with disgruntled customers at the rest area. The internship has also helped him realize there are better job opportunities available, he said.
“I actually want to work out here after Project Search is done,” Goodwin said.
“A lot of people in our society focus on what people can’t do,” Jeffries said. “We focus on what our interns can do.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362