Patrons of Blackwater Coffee Company wait patiently in line as a young dark-haired man prepares a list of drinks made to order. He maintains a pleasant demeanor, even as the line at the counter inches out into the mall's open area. They see his sharp, precise movements as he skillfully mixes various liquids together, pouring them in their cups without spilling a drop. This Lynchburg Va. Project SEARCH student's movements bring to mind a well-oiled machine, dutifully completing each task in a quick, timely manner.
Desmond does not work from a place of obligation and apathy. He works because he truly wants to –and has gone through much more to get this job than the average person.
The customers see Desmond's dedication. They do not see his disability. They don't see the hours of training it took to reach his goal of becoming a barista. With the aid of Project SEARCH, Desmond could cultivate his talents and succeed with hard work and perseverance.
Project SEARCH's primary aim is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities. The program breaks down stereotypes by increasing the public's expectations of people with significant disabilities.
Stand Up partners with the Lynchburg Va. Project SEARCH program to provide young people with significant disabilities the opportunity to contribute to their communities.
Students take part in a variety of internships within the host hospital/business where they gain competitive, transferable and marketable job skills. They also gain increased independence, confidence, and self-esteem.
Lynchburg Va. Project SEARCH students also get work based individualized coaching, instruction and feedback. Businesses also enjoy a partnership where they have access to a new, diverse, talent stream with skills that match labor needs. They also gain interns/employees with disabilities who serve as a role model for customers.
The idea for this program originated in 1996, when Director of the Emergency Department at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Erin Riehle could not find employees for entry-level jobs that involved restocking supplies. Her solution involved adopting the Center's major diversity initiative and reaching out to Great Oaks Career Campuses and the Hamilton County Board of Developmental Disability Services to recruit people with disabilities. Together with these organizations, the filling a handful of jobs evolved into what would become Project SEARCH.
Desmond is one exceptional example out of the many individuals that have participated and flourished in Project SEARCH. The program allowed him to reach his potential. Desmond realizes that his disability does not have to be a barrier to hold him back. He can not only prove this to others –but also to himself.