Project SEARCH still at home at University | UToledo News

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Project SEARCH still at home at University

Josh Hoye works on the files in the UT Treasurer's Office.

Josh Hoye works on the files in the UT Treasurer's Office.

Josh Hoye is a Project SEARCH graduate who has exceeded many expectations.

“The day he walked in, he won our hearts over. I’ve never seen any student give 110 percent like he did,” said Sue Royer, loan compliance officer in the UT Treasurer’s Office, where Hoye was an intern in 2007-08.

Project SEARCH, Students Exploring Alternative Resources at Children’s Hospital, aids high school seniors with disabilities to transition into the work force through three unpaid internship rotations.

After graduating from Project SEARCH, Hoye began volunteering once a week in the Treasurer’s Office. He then attended the Academy of Technical Studies in Toledo to keep his social and clerical skills sharp for the Treasurer’s Office and future job opportunities.

Project SEARCH was started in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and came to The University of Toledo in 2007. The program is run by Penta Career Center, UT, the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, and the Lucas County and Wood County boards of mental retardation and developmental disabilities.

The program’s employment rate was at 75 percent last year, according to Amanda Ratliff, Project SEARCH instructor.

“It’s exciting to see the students’ growth,” Ratliff said. “They come in for work experience and leave with a complete portfolio and completion certificates and go into an interview feeling prepared.”

The internships prepare students for entry-level jobs in restaurants, nursing homes, banquet centers and other places. Ratliff said that it’s the students’ interests and aptitudes that are used to determine the right job placement for their three internships.

Stephanie Blausey, director of loans, special accounts and cashiering in the UT Treasurer’s Office, jumped at the opportunity for the office to host and mentor interns from Project SEARCH. Blausey said that until people work with students who have disabilities, they do not know the benefits.

“You treat everyone equal. You become more aware, more compassionate. They are people too,” Blausey said.

Ratliff added, “It changes the office environment, making it more understanding and caring.”

Students participating in Project SEARCH are given support through on-the-job coaching and work-site accommodations, which ensure that people with disabilities are treated fairly in the workplace when it comes to hiring, disciplinary actions and opportunities for career development.

Ratliff said that having a job coach is important because students need more assistance in the beginning. She said that toward the end of the eight- to 11-week rotations, students only go to their coaches for questions or concerns.

Royer and Blausey both agree that the program’s impact goes beyond financial support and independence; it fuels students’ passion for their jobs.

For more information on Project SEARCH or to become a host, visit http://www.utoledo.edu/offices/projectscout/home/ or contact Ratliff at aratliff@pentanet.k12.oh.us.

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