TROY — The power of partnerships and mentoring was celebrated May 11, with the graduation of seven area students from the Upper Valley Project SEARCH program at Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC).
In its eighth year locally, Upper Valley Project SEARCH is a high school transition program designed to provide training and education on the road to employment for individuals with disabilities.
Seven participants were presented diplomas from their school district representatives. The graduates were: Juli Diehl and Courtney Kruger, Tippecanoe High School; Jesse Divens, Christian Academy Schools; Kaylee Puckett, Fairlawn High School; Mikayla Ryder, Jackson Center High School; Michael Schulze, Anna High School; and Joseph Trisler, Sidney High School.
The goal of the nine-month program is to help each student intern become “a more independent, and systematically competitively skilled person ready to compete in their community job market,” said Patti Moore, Upper Valley Project SEARCH coordinator. She works in partnership with the interns, intervention specialists, job coaches, and work site supervisors at UVMC and Koester Pavilion.
Upper Valley Project SEARCH partners, in addition to UVMC, include the Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua, the boards of developmental disabilities in Miami and Shelby counties, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Capabilities Inc., and Koester Pavilion.
Moore said the partnerships are the secret to the program’s success. “It takes all of us to really make this program work,” she said. Each intern deferred receiving their high school diploma, went through an interview selection process and earned a position to participate in the program.
Matt Meyer, supervisor at the Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua, said the graduates take with them skills important to today’s employers including dependability, integrity, respect, and team work.
“I can think of no other employees anywhere that better model these characteristics than these seven individuals. We sincerely thank these young adults for all they have done. We congratulate you on a job well done,” Meyer said.
Terry Fry, UVMC chief nursing officer, congratulated the graduates and told them how much UVMC’s employees “value” the partnership with Project SEARCH. UVMC employees serve as mentors for students in the program as they rotate through departments to receive a variety of experiences.
“They have had the opportunity to have lots of experiences in their time here at Upper Valley and we so appreciate them,” Fry said.
Three graduates are working with coaches to get their driver’s licenses and two have jobs at Sidney Kroger and Troy Christian School. Project SEARCH programs total 40 in Ohio and 400 internationally, she said.
The graduates talked about their program experiences, their plans – two have jobs – and thanked mentors from departments where they interned.
For more information on Upper Valley Project SEARCH, contact Moore at (937) 440-7431.