It may be a bit early to assess his new “job” in environmental services at Wayne Memorial Hospital, but so far so good for Honesdale High School senior Zack Potter.
“I like the print shop,” he said, “lots to do.” Zack is one of seven students from Honesdale and Wallenpaupack High School who are participating in the area’s first-ever Project SEARCH internship program. This national program is designed to help individuals with developmental disabilities find meaningful and competitive employment.
“When Wayne Highlands School District first learned about Project SEARCH, we were blown away by the endless possibilities,” said Greg Frigoletto, Wayne Highlands School District superintendent. “As a transition program for students with developmental disabilities, we were excited about the work skills and life skills that a program like this could offer to some of our most ambitious and hardworking students. We immediately thought that Wayne Memorial Hospital would be a tremendous partner because of their capacity to provide varied work experiences for our students and, just as importantly, because they have a service reputation that is unmatched.”
Noting that Project SEARCH was actually developed at a hospital research center, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, in 1996, Wayne Memorial CEO David Hoff said participation was a “no-brainer” and the hospital was thrilled to be involved.
“Project SEARCH has been successful in placing individuals with disabilities in real jobs through similar internships,” said Hoff, “and we are always looking for reliable employees.”
Over this school year, the students will participate in three ten-week rotations through various hospital departments. The program started in environmental services, the cafeteria, the kitchen, housekeeping, the information desk (clerical), central supply and central services.
Wayne Memorial has given the students and their two on-site special education skills trainers an office in a hospital-owned building on High Street, said Joyce Malicky, WMH Volunteer Coordinator and Project SEARCH Business Liaison. Leslie Gunuskey and James Giacobbe meet with the students each morning and routinely visit the students at their work locations throughout the day.
Michaela Gregory, who is working in central supply and central services, said she’s enjoying the work. For this department, Michaela admits she doesn’t have to worry about what to wear every day—it’s scrubs.
“This is a remarkable collaboration between the schools and our community hospital,” said Frigoletto. “Our ultimate goal is to teach the students the work and life skills that will lead to future employment, demonstrating that these extremely capable young adults can be highly successful and productive citizens in our community.”