Mauricio (L) and Josh (R) at Project SEARCH graduation. Marcus was unable to attend because he had to work (the best excuse at a Project SEARCH event!).

Confidence and excitement for the future filled the room as eight bright eyed students graduated May 31 from Project SEARCH.

Walking into the graduation ceremony was almost electric as you could feel the dreams and possibilities radiating through the students. Each person gave a short speech on what they learned from Project SEARCH and thanked their families and teachers for being there for them. ADEC offers this program each year in partnership with Memorial Hospital, Indiana University South Bend, and South Bend Community School Corporation.

“We started this year off with a group of nervous young adults, who weren’t quite sure what this year at Memorial Hospital had in store for them,” Erica Rarick, ADEC’s Project SEARCH Lead Job Coach, said as she addressed the audience and students. “It has been a year of discovery and growth. The lessons and skills that you have learned will help you go far. Each of you has gained confidence in your abilities, which will aid you in your pursuit of employment. I am so proud of all the accomplishments this class has made. It has been a privilege to work with each one of you!”

Watching the graduation was even more fun as I reflected on the journeys the students and teachers took to get there. Here’s how some of the people we’ve followed this year wrapped up their 2016 Project SEARCH year.

Mauricio Angulo (Read our first post about Mauricio here.)

Earlier this year, we followed Mauricio Angulo as he navigated the halls of Memorial Hospital for his first work rotation cleaning rooms and hallways in the major surgery department of Memorial. Even then Mauricio worked confidently, fully aware of his own capabilities. (You can read that blog post here.)

Mauricio has only continued to grow since that day in the surgical wing. He has become the natural leader for the class and was chosen to give the Student Address at graduation.

“I was an intern at Memorial Hospital this year,” Mauricio said at graduation. “I learned to be nice to my group of Project SEARCH friends. Project SEARCH is a great program . . . Thank you for the help from my teacher, Anne, and job coaches, Erica and Mark . . . A special thank you to my family.”

Mauricio not only graduated as a successful leader, but also as a gainfully employed adult! He did so well working in the hospital dishroom during his last rotation, they offered him the job permanently.

When I asked him how he felt about it, he just smiled really big and said, “Feels good.”

Joshua Wilson (Read our first post about Josh here.)

When we followed Josh during his first rotation, he was enthusiastically working in the kitchen, wiping down tables. Over the course of the year, he tried a few other things, but enjoyed his time in the kitchen the most.

By the end of the year, Josh had landed a job at HealthWin in South Bend. He works in their dish pit and helps out with nutritional services.

I asked Josh at the graduation what he thought of Project SEARCH. “It was pretty amazing,” he said. “Helping all my friends.”

Marcus Whitney (You can read our first post about Marcus here.)

Marcus was one of the first students to land a permanent post. He was offered a position at the hospital and worked for a short time before deciding he wanted to be in a different environment. Since then, he’s taken a job with Concord Schools, working in the dish pit.

Article by Whitney Craig | Communications Specialist

Photo by Rod Tackett | Communications Specialist