Project SEARCH Enters New Semester of Providing Employment Opportunities for Students with Developmental Differences

SUNY Cobleskill and The Arc Lexington are proud to announce that Project SEARCH, an internationally renowned program that prepares people with disabilities in securing integrated, competitive employment, has successfully launched with the SUNY Cobleskill campus as a host site for the 2023-2024 academic year. Now, with new funding through the Mohawk Valley’s $10 million award through New York State’s Regional Economic Development Council Challenge Competition, The Arc Lexington and SUNY Cobleskill plan to upscale the program to other higher education institutions and industry partners.

During a joint press conference held on Wednesday, Jan. 31, Lexington and SUNY Cobleskill officials provided an overview and tour of the program, which currently offers seven students with supportive training and career exploration through internships in various departments including Athletics, Facilities Management, Dining Services, Mailroom, and the College Store. The students are also a part of The Arc Lexington’s Transitions program, a post-secondary program that supports teens and young adults with autism and learning differences, which is also provided on the Cobleskill campus.

“It is remarkable to see the change that has come over the students who are participating. In one internship through Project SEARCH, our students are showing confidence in skills that they previously struggled or had no known experience with. It is exciting to see how much they look forward to the future,” said Shaloni Winston, CEO of The Arc Lexington. “This is a testament to how a successful partnership and innovative thinking can provide opportunities for any student of any ability. Employment is the next step for any college student and Project SEARCH is bridging the gap between education and employment with these internships. We look forward to future discussions on how we can bring this program to so many more.”

“Project SEARCH embodies SUNY Cobleskill’s and the Arc Lexington’s shared commitment to inclusive learning and community partnership,” said Dr. Marion Terenzio, President of SUNY Cobleskill. “We are proud to collaborate with The Arc Lexington on such a transformative program, enriching our campus workforce, the lives of our interns and their mentors, and the experience of our campus members who come in contact with these interns on a daily basis. Their talent and eagerness to learn and contribute demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion in our educational environment. Our community is made better through Project SEARCH, and we welcome new opportunities to expand this program in future semesters.”

For interns Cameron Ferris and Raymond Hillhouse, Project SEARCH was an opportunity to gain valuable job skills that could be used in their future careers. During his first internship that started in October, Ferris worked at Champlin Dining Hall, where he said he has gained skills in time management, food preparation and sanitization, and socializing with his co-workers. Ferris’ second internship is in the College Book Store.

“When I finish Project SEARCH, I plan on getting a job where I will use the skills I’m learning now. I haven’t decided on a final job goal yet, but thanks to Project SEARCH I’m able to explore different career areas to help me learn what jobs I will be interested in at the end of the program,” he said.

Hillhouse, who began his internship with the Athletics Department, said he was able to not only complete the tasks given to him but he also created a labeling system for the athletic equipment and a digital inventory.  His next internship is with the Facilities Management department.

“The internship is not only helping me improve my skills when it comes to organization and technology, but it’s also helping me feel more comfortable interacting with new people. My supervisor has spent time teaching me about professionalism in the workplace and I feel more confident in this area now,” Hillhouse said. “After Project SEARCH I will be moving to the Transitions campus in Albany and my goal is to get a full-time job in Albany. My ultimate goal is to work at a news station.”

Project SEARCH has assisted 10,000 participants nationwide over the past five years with a 92 percent completion rate and 75 percent job placement rate. While SUNY Cobleskill has acted as the initial host site for the program in the immediate area, opportunities to expand the program to neighboring colleges throughout the region are now being explored.

Governor Hochul’s announcement of the Mohawk Valley’s $10 million Regional Economic Development Council Challenge Award and a link to the Mohawk Valley’s winning proposal, including the expansion of Project SEARCH, can be found here.

 

Pictured (left to right): Michael Jorgensen, SUNY Cobleskill Campus Recreation Coordinator and Project SEARCH Mentor; Michael Putman, Project Search Instructor; Cameron Ferris, Project Search Intern; Ray Hillhouse, Project Search Intern; Dr. Marion Terenzio, SUNY Cobleskill President; Shaloni Winston, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc Lexington.

 

 

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