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After Project SEARCH, Young Adults with Disabilities Find Work in the Community

Ability Beyond and two of our long standing partners have earned special recognition for helping young people with disabilities land great jobs after high school.

During the 16th Annual Project SEARCH Conference in Wisconsin, our supported internship programs at Norwalk Community College (NCC) and Montefiore Hospital received Excellent Employment Outcome Awards!

That means more than 70 percent of interns in the 2022 class found competitive, integrated employment within nine months of graduation. By now the rate is closer to 100 percent, said Ability Beyond Services Director Kate Travis.

“We take such pride in helping young adults get established in a job and begin their careers,” Kate said.

“We are thrilled to be involved with Project SEARCH, working alongside businesses like NCC and Montefiore Hospital toward an inclusive, diverse workforce.”

A “Bridge” From One Chapter to the Next

Project SEARCH is a supported internship program for young adults as they transition from special education into the workforce. It is based on a globally-recognized, best practice model developed in the ’90s at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Today there are more than 600 Project SEARCH sites around the world, including ours at Montefiore Hospital, NCC, Norwalk Hospital and Danbury Hospital.

Our first site was at Montefiore Hospital in New Rochelle, launched in 2017. The newest, at Danbury Hospital, launched in September 2023.

“Our partners are setting an example that other businesses could learn from by investing in diverse young adults who are talented and motivated,” said Shaileen Brighton-Ortiz, Ability Beyond Director of Services and DEIB.

The Project SEARCH model is a nine-month internship during which young adults work three unique job rotations at a local business, while receiving wraparound support, five days a week, from Ability Beyond. It’s a potent combo of real-world skill building and classroom education about soft skills, financial literacy, self-advocacy, and more.

When the internship period concludes, Project SEARCH graduates set out with their new skills to find competitive work in the community that aligns with their talents and interests. At that crucial juncture, Ability Beyond steps up to coach them over the finish line with our expert employment support.

“That is the bridge we create,” Shaileen said. “It used to be that students left the school system and had no path for entering the workforce with confidence and community. We’re changing that with Project SEARCH.”

The Outcomes

Today you may find 2022 graduates of Project SEARCH working at Chartwells in Weston, Stop and Shop, Bowlero, McDonald’s, The Residence in Westport, the partner site where they interned, or other businesses in Connecticut or New York!

“Project SEARCH interns are very motivated to find employment in the community,” said Employment Specialist Alysandria Diaz. “They are helpful, respectful, and eager to work, doing jobs they enjoy and excel at. So whatever they need, we try to support them.”

That support includes your job search classics, like resume building, scouting for job openings, submitting applications, and preparing for interviews. Staff also invest a great deal of care and strategy into generating from-scratch opportunities for interns through their relationships in the community.

Alysandria said that Project SEARCH instills a strong sense of commitment to help interns achieve their employment goals.”

“You’re with them from start to finish,” Alysandria said. “You can see the effort that interns put into their training, and the growth they’ve made.”

Take Action

We help more than 1,750 people in Connecticut and New York each year through Project SEARCH and our Career Development programs. Learn more about what you can do to support these efforts today!

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