On October 12th, 2015, 12 disabled young adults had the opportunity to become fire fighters for a day. This is one of the many events the program Project SEARCH creates to help young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities explore different jobs in their community. Project SEARCH’s main goal is to provide a smooth transition for disabled young adults as they move into the work force.
Project SEARCH focuses on high school students who are in their last year and whose main goal is employment. Each one of their events provides a real-life work experience and allows these young adults to explore different job opportunities.
The City of Hialeah Fire Station, the location of the Fire Fighter for a Day event, is one of the many agencies that work with Project SEARCH in creating a real-life working experience for these young adults.
“We went through role call,” said fire fighter Bobby Williams, “and after we did some physical training then we did our station duties, we washed the truck and did some hose evolutions, then they got to put out an actual fire with our small junior fire cabin house.” All those activities Williams described helped show the young adults what being a fire fighter was all about. Project SEARCH believes that events like these can truly help the young adults in their program.
Today, Project SEARCH has 400 sites around the country with the same goal: providing employment training and eventually employment itself to young adults with disabilities. These 400 Project SEARCH sites would not be able to function without the help of the communities in which they are located. Without local hospitals and manufacturing companies opening their doors to Project SEARCH students, there would be no way for the students to train in the work place, thus making it more difficult for them to find jobs.
Thankfully, local companies do open their doors to students and allow them to learn from their employees. Because of local companies’ help, Project SEARCH has been a huge success. According to Erin Riehle, co-founder and executive director of Project Search, 73% of all students who graduated from the program in 2014 found employment at a standard wage. This year Riehle hopes to improve those numbers and one day hopes to find jobs for all disabled people in the country.
Also produced by Cesar Sabates and Christopher Forero