Project Search Promotes Job Skills
Sometimes, a ‘little push' is hugely beneficial.
St. Ambrose this year is serving as a host site for Project Search, a national program that helps recent high school graduates with intellectual or developmental challenges gain competitive employment skills.
Five local graduates are spending the year on campus, building employment skills by working as unpaid interns in SAU departments and offices. The Davenport School District, Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services and Imagine the Possibilities Inc., all are collaborating with St. Ambrose to offer the program.
Steve Claeys, Project Search instructor for the Davenport district, said the interns showed improvement within a month of the program launch. "The goal is for them to gain competitive employment skills and to do so with a little push," he said. "This is an extra year where they get to transition and prepare for long-term employment.
"There is a work experience program in high school, but this is just so much different. Now, they get to put their skills to use with a little less support, so they are becoming more independent," Claeys added.
The interns will experience three university job sites by the end of the academic year, with each rotating to a different office every 10 weeks. They spend roughly five hours a day "on the job," and about an hour and a half working with Claeys and two skill coaches.
Maddie Wright served her first SAU internship at the Children's Campus and was taking on work that included laminating and copying, doing laundry, washing dishes and passing out meals. She also prepared for the working world by riding a city bus from the main campus to the Children's Campus - something she had never done before.
She said the experience has helped her feel more independent and prepared for employment, and that she feels welcomed and included within the St. Ambrose community.
Ryan Saddler 96, '06 MEd, SAU's director of diversity and director of the Accessibility Resource Center, said Project Search is a program that fits well with the university's mission and values.
"It definitely is a social justice piece for us, because we can have a hand in helping these students become gainfully employed," Saddler said.