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Searching for Their Chance




Clad in royal blue robes and mortarboards, and with broad smiles on their faces, 13 men and women proudly accepted graduation diplomas issued by Project SEARCH during a June 5 ceremony at the Southern Management Corporation Campus Center.

Project SEARCH is a partnership between the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), The Arc Baltimore, Baltimore City Public Schools, and the Maryland State Department of Education Division of Rehabilitation Services. The group operates a high school transition program for developmentally disadvantaged young adults in Baltimore who undertake unpaid internships and attend classes at UMB.

The graduation marked the sixth year Project SEARCH students have completed job internships with UMB and the University of Maryland Medical Center. To date, 61 students have graduated from the program.

"The goal of Project SEARCH is 100 percent employment for our graduates," says The Arc's Joanna Falcone, director of Project SEARCH. In addition to imparting job-specific training, "we also work with students on business etiquette and how to take constructive criticism from supervisors as well as other important life skills," she adds.

Project SEARCH students participate in three 10-week-long internships lasting approximately five hours each day. Students spend an hour per day learning workplace safety, money management, and social skills. UMB internship sites range from URecFIT to the School of Nursing.

During the ceremony, the new graduates read self-penned speeches highlighting the skills they learned. They also thanked co-workers, teachers, fellow Project SEARCH students, and their families. UMB departments that hosted Project SEARCH students were recognized.

"After I took a tour of the UMB campus I knew I wanted to work in the hospital," said 21-year-old Keona Chestnut, who transported patients at the University of Maryland Medical Center during one of her internships.

"Project SEARCH made a fighter out of me," said Christopher Crawford, whose internships included stints at the Francis King Carey School of Law's Thurgood Marshall Law Library, Human Resource Services, and the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

Placing adults with disabilities in the workplace promotes diversity and helps dispel the misperception that people with disabilities aren't employable, Falcone says. "People are usually surprised at how capable these individuals are. Our students are held to the same standard as other employees."





Posting Date: 06/06/2014
Contact Name: Jill Yesko
Contact Phone: 410-706-3803
Contact Email: jyesko@umaryland.edu