Project SEARCH Graduates Latest Class

Project SEARCH graduates, include from left, back: Michael Lentz, Cheryl Lux, Vincent Lewis, Matt Mulligan, Blake Hodgen; from left, front: Ann Marie Joyce, Schala McGee, Juwan Mountain, Michele Hagan.

Project SEARCH graduates, include from left, back: Michael Lentz, Cheryl Lux, Vincent Lewis, Matt Mulligan, Blake Hodgen; from left, front: Ann Marie Joyce, Schala McGee, Juwan Mountain, Michele Hagan.

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | May 23, 2017

Nine students graduated last week from UNMC/Nebraska Medicine's most recent Project SEARCH class, with all nine offered a job and four already working.

The class is the third graduating class since the job program came to the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine campus two and a half years ago.

Project SEARCH is a one-year, total workplace immersion vocational training program that helps individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities learn the necessary job skills to become competitively employed.

Graduate Cheryl Lux will be working at the Munroe-Meyer Institute in the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, doing a variety of jobs as a behavioral technician assistant.

"This is a blessing," she said. "I'm here, graduating, and I have a job. I'm happy."

"We're exceptionally pleased," said Tara Harper, Project SEARCH liaison. "Everyone's done a really good job. Both partners, VODEC and Madonna School, have been great to work with and everybody's really supportive of the project."

Sam Nelson, a former graduate of the program, was at the event. Nelson currently works at the NICU in Nebraska Medicine, where he cleans isolettes. "It helped me a lot," he said of the program, saying it had made him more independent and helped him meet new people.

Chris Miller, the Project Search instructor with program partner Madonna School, said he was "proud of these guys, and really happy to have 100 percent employment."

"They've earned all that they've accomplished," Miller said. "We just keep going, getting better every year. This is a great site."

Paul Turner, Sodexo executive director, said he was pleased with the 100 percent employment opportunity rate -- the second year in a row the program has achieved that mark. Sodexo is hiring four of the new graduates.

"We're excited about our new employees and this program," he said. "The last three years have been really good -- we're excited about the partnerships."

In addition to Sodexo, partners in the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine Project SEARCH program include the Munroe-Meyer Institute, Madonna School, VODEC, Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

UNMC Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance Deb Thomas, who was instrumental in bringing the program to the med center, said she was proud of the latest cohort of graduates.

"Our Project SEARCH participants continually go above and beyond in their training, as their success in achieving their employment goals shows," she said. "We are proud to be a host site for this important and inclusive program."