February 6, 2014

by: Renee Canfield

In the Spotlight – Project SEARCH

UCP of Greater Cleveland has the privilege to partner with some outstanding businesses and organizations throughout the community. This year, we were especially grateful to expand our partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, long-term partner and neighbor. The Cleveland Clinic’s involvement as a UCP employment partner began in 2006 as a Supported Employment Site in their Employee Health Plan Department, which continues to be an active employment site.

This year our partnership expanded when we established a Project SEARCH site on the main Cleveland Clinic campus. This partnership brought together the Cleveland Metropolitan School District who referred thirteen students with disabilities into the program; the Cleveland Clinic, who as the Business Host Partner, established internships throughout the main campus in a variety of different departments; and UCP of Greater Cleveland, who provides Job Coaching and Job Placement for the students.

The implementation of the new site has gone rather smoothly, and all thirteen interns are finishing up their first internship this month. Eleven departments currently have internships, and as employees of the Clinic meet and observe the student internships working, more and more departments are impressed and requesting placements in their areas! Currently, student interns are working in a variety of different jobs that range from clerical, mail room, patient transport and surgical processing. Natalie LaPorta, UCP Job Coach, enthusiastically points out that many of the interns have surpassed the original expectations of the departments where they are assigned and have performed above and beyond their initial duties.

One department in particular, Clinical Engineering, was so impressed with their first intern that they already offered him part-time employment! Joshua, who is a senior at John Adams High School, was hired quickly after beginning his first internship in the Clinical Engineering Department. Joshua wanted to take the job, but also wanted to complete Project SEARCH. With the help of his UCP Job Coach he was able to work out a plan where he goes to school during the day at Project SEARCH, and then works during the late afternoon and evening at his Cleveland Clinic job. Joshua is a young man on the Autism Spectrum, and is high functioning, independent and a quick learner. When he started his first internship with Project SEARCH he did struggle slightly with making sure to advocate for himself and ask questions when he didn’t understand something. He has worked hard with his UCP Job Coach through role-playing exercises to identify proper times to speak up for himself and ask questions to build his independence.

David, from Lincoln West High School, is another example of a student intern that is excelling in Project SEARCH. David struggled with communicating effectively and managing his time when he first entered the program. His first intern assignment was in Patient Access, and as a part of his duties, David was asked to work at the front desk where patients check into the hospital department. David’s Job Coaches worked with him to speak clearly and slowly so that patients were able to understand him. They also worked on his time management skills, breaking down his job responsibilities into reasonable sections. David has learned an array of transferable skills including appropriate workplace behavior, organization, applying computer skills to new software and customer interaction. He is excited for his next intern assignment, which will be in the Surgical Support Department, where he will assist to prepare rooms for new patients who are receiving surgery at Cleveland Clinic, among many other duties.

Joshua and David are only two of the thirteen students learning new skills and on-the-job work experience through Project SEARCH at the Cleveland Clinic. All of the students participating in Project SEARCH at the Cleveland Clinic are extremely grateful for the opportunity to participate in the program. UCP is grateful for the opportunity to expand our partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, and look forward to another successful round of internships for our students starting in December!

To learn more about the Project SEARCH model and UCP’s school to work transition services, please visit our Project SEARCH webpage or contact Sharon Meixner, Transition Manager, at smeixner@ucpcleveland.org or 216-791-8363 ext. 1261.

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