Motivated by the desire to learn more and earn money for a car, Mauricio Anguio (pictured above) pushes himself to work hard and take on responsibility at Project SEARCH. Now in his first rotation, Mauricio works independently as he cleans offices, break rooms, hallways and waiting areas in the surgical area of Memorial Hospital in South Bend.

Since the surgical wing can be a fast-paced, hectic environment with nurses and doctors running about and patients on gurneys coming through doors unexpectedly, Mauricio must remain alert and try to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb anyone. He is also responsible for cleaning the on-call doctors’ rest area at Memorial.

“I was so impressed,” said Erica Rarick, Project SEARCH Lead Job Coach. “I went to go check on him in the afternoon, and I saw a gentleman in the waiting area stop him and say, ‘I’ve been watching you, you’re doing a great job.’”

It took just three days for Mauricio to pick up the skills necessary to complete his job tasks at Memorial. He follows a dot system on the doors to remind him what tasks are needed in each room. Erica checks on him just twice a day, allowing him a lot of room for self-reliance. When he heads to work, he confidently navigates the maze of hallways, opening secure doors with his badge. There’s a certain spring of pride in his step.

Mauricio is one of nine students participating in the Project SEARCH program, a nine month job training program for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. ADEC brought the program brought to South Bend five years ago. Project SEARCH is a collaborative venture between ADEC, South Bend City Schools, Memorial and Vocational Rehabilitation.

This year Erica Rarick stepped in as the new lead job coach for the Project SEARCH program. Erica has been with ADEC since 2013 working in Community Employment as a job developer and then coach. She quickly picked up the skills to work with motivated youth facing barriers to employment and now spends most of her days splitting time between job coaching students on their shifts and building relationships with hospital staff members.

“I really like it,” Erica smiled when asked about the new job opportunity. “I think it’s an amazing program, and I’m excited to be a part of it . . . I like meeting all the departments through the students and creating better communication so we can open new rotations, creating more opportunities in different departments.”

Anne Long, the classroom teacher from the South Bend Community Schools, spent the first part of the school year working on team building activities while also teaching essential skills such as how to answer a phone properly or how to behave in an interview.

“This is a really good group,” Anne shared. “It’s a good dynamic, they get along really well . . . A lot of [the classroom work] is socialization, communication, team building – making sure they all get along well and know how to talk to their supervisor.”

Josh Wilson participates in the program with his twin brother, Jordan. Josh works in the cafeteria, cleaning tables and chairs.

Josh for web

Josh stands with his cart as he washes tables off in the cafeteria.

“I love my job,” Josh said. “I work hard, it keeps me focused.”

As Josh works in the cafeteria, he must work with the other food service workers at the hospital and be careful not to disturb diners. It takes a certain amount of concentration and effort each day.

As Josh works hard each day, he recognizes how Project SEARCH provides a unique opportunity for him and his brother to gain skills and prepare for the workforce. “It’s all thanks to Mrs. Long for helping us, and Miss Erica too. I like the jobs, they’re awesome.”

Article by Whitney Craig / Communications Specialist

Photos by Rod Tackett / Communications Specialist