INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Unemployment rates remain high for people who have disabilities, but one program is building on its foundation by setting up recent high school graduates with the skills they need to move into the workforce.
The program is called Project Search. Each year, they welcome interns. Organizers say the interns offer valuable support as many hope to step out of the routine of school into adult work life. Although the interns face some challenges, it’s not much different, as we all have to adapt to what life gives us.
Recent high school graduate Jennifer Medsker is adapting to her internship at a hospital. “I’m feeling better, and I got to know people.”
She’s one of this year’s Project Search interns. She and her peers are learning new skills to prepare them for the real world. Project Search is an Easterseals Crossroads program, which has been around for years helping young people who have disabilities move into the workforce through specialized training.
The program, Medsker says, gives the graduate a feeling of independence. “Instead of having my mom come get me every single day, I can just leave and ride the bus home on Friday.”
Team lead Melissa Hardesty said, “Trying to get used to a school routine versus a work routine is very different. It does come with a lot of responsibilities they are trying to manage independently.”
Hardesty and Keith Fox, the program’s transition services coordinator, say a major goal is minimizing the unemployment rate for Hoosiers with disabilities. Fox said, “Project Search … has been a game changer for the people with disabilities who are now employed in our community.”
Independence is what many seek.
“We all had challenges and we all learn to come up with ways to overcome those challenges,” Fox said.
The interns learn skills to advance independently in the workforce: from counting money to setting schedules and how to behave at work and more.
Digital literacy plays a major role in getting it done.
Hardesty said, “We use the Notes a lot. We use the Reminders settings a lot. Many of those who ride the city bus often also use the few apps that we’ve taught them to use.”