For the 2016 Project SEARCH Open House, the eight students prepared display boards with pictures and written prompts to give presentations on their work at the mid-way point of the program. Anne Long, Project SEARCH teacher with South Bend Community Schools, has spent the majority of recent class time working with students on their presentation style and creating appropriate displays to convey the lessons learned in each rotation.

The Open House took place Tuesday, January 12 at the Cancer Care Center in Memorial Hospital. While the weather outside was unrelentingly cold and snowy, the atmosphere inside was warm and energetic as the students welcomed a steady stream of visitors eager to hear of the work being accomplished this year.

“Their coworkers are noticing [what a great job they do],” Erica observed. “Several have come down and talked about how nice it is to have them in their department.”

Each time a visitor entered, the students stood patiently next to their display boards as people made their way around the circle. Each student introduced him or herself and offered a handshake before using the display board to explain their job tasks in their first two rotations and explain the processes behind their work.

One student illustrated his work through hand motions, while another used descriptive wording to help visitors understand his job. Another pointed to the pictures and quickly explained tasks. All were enthusiastic and quick to share what they enjoyed most and what they would rather not do.

As cake and punch were shared, a sense of pride and accomplishment filled the room. To the casual observer, the students did not appear to be young adults limited by disabilities, but instead came across as bright interns learning new skills as they excitedly embark upon their careers. With Project SEARCH, ADEC accomplishes the choice and possibility promised in its mission.

Student Achievement

When Marcus Whitney goes to work in the environmental department at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, his supervisors know each dust board, dirty linen and floor he works on will be thoroughly cleaned and ready for the next day.

Marcus is an intern with ADEC’s Project SEARCH hosted at Memorial Hospital in conjunction with South Bend Community School, Vocational Rehabilitation and Indiana University South Bend. He began working in the environmental department on his first rotation in September.

When it came time for Marcus to move on to a second rotation and gain additional experience at the hospital, his supervisors asked if they could hire Marcus to work in their department permanently. Erica Rarick, ADEC certified employment specialist and Project SEARCH lead, worked with them to extend his rotation there so he could continue to gain skills in preparation for permanent employment.

“Marcus meshes really well in their department,” Erica said. “He’s really good at understanding the jobs, and he’s flexible.”

Marcus for web

Marcus Whitney explains his job rotation during the Project SEARCH Open House.

Sara Howard, ADEC’s senior manager of community employment, added, “I think it says a lot of how much he’s impressed them. When I asked some of the students, ‘What is the most important skill you’ve learned [in Project SEARCH]?’ Marcus said, ‘To be flexible and know your job can change from day to day.”

During this extended rotation, Marcus has been learning more about teamwork by working with his classmate, Jordan Wilson. The two men work well together and received a formal “Shout-Out” from staff members at Memorial for their work.

“They did a great job sweeping the tower floors last week,” Russell Toombs, environmental services supervisor at Memorial, said of the shout-out from Doreen Kennedy, Memorial employee. “She said that they were ‘policing’ each other in that if one missed a spot the other one would let him know. Great job guys!!!”

Erica has also been impressed with the quality of teamwork between the two interns. As part of their job tasks, they spend time in several different parts of the hospital, but she never has to worry about them getting lost or goofing off on the job. “They’ve really learned where they need to go and stepped up to the responsibility.”

Story by Whitney Craig / Communications Specialist

Photos by Rod Tackett / Communications Specialist