PIQUA — Participants in the 2015-16 Upper Valley Project SEARCH were encouraged by a previous program graduate to explore the power of connections as they journey into the job world during the May 13 program celebration at Upper Valley Medical Center.
In its sixth year locally, Upper Valley Project SEARCH is a high school transition program designed to provide training and education on the road to employment for individuals with disabilities.
“It takes connections … finding the right people to help you out,” said D.J. Gayhart, a 2010-11 program participant who returned to share some of his experiences with this year’s five program participants.
“Don’t be afraid to try a job. If you fail, that is OK … you are going to find something else,” Gayhart said.
Upper Valley Project SEARCH partners, in addition to UVMC, include the Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua, the Miami and Shelby counties Board of Developmental Disabilities, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Capabilities Inc. and a new partner, Koester Pavilion joining this year.
The goal of the nine-month program is to help each intern become “a more independent, systematically competitively skilled person ready to compete in their community job market,” said Patti Moore, Upper Valley Project SEARCH coordinator.
She works in partnership with the interns, intervention specialists, job coaches and work site supervisors at UVMC. She emphasized that the interns are not actual employees, but are “strictly students in training” during the nine-month program.
Each intern deferred receiving their high school diploma, went through an interview selection process and earned a position to participate in the program.
This year’s participants were presented their diplomas by representatives of their high schools The participants and their schools were: Nick Minnich, Bethel High School; Makayla Jones, Sidney High School; and Cooper Brown, Adam Priest and Danny Schumacher, all Troy High School.
Each participant talked about their program experiences, their future plans – most have jobs – and thanked mentors from UVMC departments where they interned.
Matt Meyer, supervisor at the Upper Valley Career Center, compared Project SEARCH with apprenticeship programs that are increasing in use.
“It is these young adults in real life, with real life applications of what they may want to do in the future,” he said. “I appreciate the partnerships … and how everybody comes together to support these fine young adults in what they can do.”
Becky Rice, UVMC president and CEO said UVMC is honored to be a part of the participants’ success stories. “We are just so proud of everybody that is here,” Rice said.
Moore talked with each intern about the tasks they completed and future plans including jobs secured already
She thanked program participants, their families and the partners for making Upper Valley Project SEARCH possible. “It takes all of us … The journey goes beyond these walls,” Moore said. “I love getting up in the morning and coming to this job.”
For more information on Project SEARCH, contact Patti Moore at 937-440-7431.