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Project SEARCH partners Syracuse teens with Upstate departments for perfect results

Project SEARCH partners Syracuse teens with Upstate departments for perfect results

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Mica Owens of Syracuse was perfect. The Syracuse high school senior did not miss a day or an hour of his internship at Upstate Medical University, where he worked with Environmental Services and Morrison Food Service. For 514 hours, from September 2013 to June 2014, Owens showed up for his internship raring to go, and never missed a second of work.

“Project SEARCH has been a good opportunity for me to train in skills to get a job,” he said. “Being in a work environment, learning job skills around wonderful people let me learn in the real world. I thank my mentors for being wonderful people to me and helping me to be ready to get a job.”

Owens was among 10 Syracuse high school seniors who graduated from the program last week after successfully completing their internships. The internships are part of Project SEARCH, a one-year educational program for students with disabilities who are in their last year of high school. The program takes place in a health care or business setting in which total immersion in the workplace facilitates teaching and learning through feedback and application of new skills. Upstate is one of only eight institutions hosting Project SEARCH in New York. The main goal now for Project SEARCH graduates is to gain competitive employment.

Maxine S. Thompson, Upstate assistant vice president for diversity and inclusion, said these Project SEARCH graduates have already proven themselves worthy of their next life stage.

“You have already set yourselves apart from your peers by meeting the eligibility requirements, being accepted into the program and fulfilling all of the rigorous program requirements, proving that you are driven, hardworking, enthusiastic and confident in your abilities,” she told students at the program’s graduation ceremony June 20. “You have demonstrated your commitment by being willing to turn your final year of high school into a year of work experience and training.”

The year of work and training for Project SEARCH graduate Brittany Cullen included work in Records Storage, where he she assisted in compiling some 1,500 medical records.

“Records Storage is proud to be part of Project SEARCH, said Manager Tree Carter. “The program helps build confidence of the participants and gives them a real-world view of the workplace. But on the flipside, we as a department have learned so much about ourselves through Brittany’s work with us that we, too, benefit from our participation in the project.”

In addition to Records Storage, other campus departments and offices that hosted a Syracuse teen include Morrison; Central Distribution; Sterile Processing; Receiving Department; Mailroom; Upstate Child Care Center; Centro; Nursing--OR, Fifth Floor; Operating Room Materials; Environmental Services; and Central Equipment.

Since Upstate became a host of Project SEARCH in 2008, more than 60 percent of participants have found competitive employment.

Upstate’s Project SEARCH partnership with the Syracuse City School District is supported by ARC of Onondaga’s Employment Options and CNY Developmental Services Office.

Caption: A homemade sign highlighted the accomplishment for Project SEARCH student Brittany Cullen, left, who compiled 15,000 charts for her internship in Records Storage. On hand to support Cullen are Records Storage employees, from left, Kelly White, Mark Reichert and Ryan Schmidt. Michael Bamerick also attended Cullen’s graduation ceremony.