UPMC Hospitals Celebrate Project SEARCH Graduation Ceremonies

By: Mattie Winowitch and Stephanie Stanley

The Project SEARCH program at UPMC is a one-year training and education program leading to employment for individuals with disabilities. Students 18 to 21 years old get real-life work experience based on the individual’s preferences and interests, with the goal of securing competitive employment.

“With each work rotation the students go through here at UPMC, they gain invaluable skills,” said Diane Kolling, director of volunteer and guest services at UPMC Passavant. “Watching the students transform and grow along the way is one of the most fulfilling parts of my job.”

UPMC Hospitals Celebrate Project SEARCH Graduation CeremoniesUPMC Passavant, UPMC Mercy, UPMC Hamot and UPMC Jameson all recently held graduation ceremonies for their Project SEARCH participants. Both UPMC Passavant and UPMC Mercy’s Project SEARCH programs were made possible through a partnership with Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Eighty percent of the 104 students who have graduated from the Project SEARCH program since it started 10 years ago have obtained employment.

“When you consider our pattern of success and job placement rate, it’s easy to understand our investment in Project SEARCH and why it is so effective,” said James E. Taylor, chief diversity, inclusion and learning officer.

The students graduating from this year’s Project SEARCH program had the opportunity to work in several areas, such as the emergency department, environmental services, food services, materials management, patient transport, pharmacy and post-anesthesia care. Each student in the program could choose three of these areas in which to work and learn, and between each rotation, they would apply, develop a resume and interview for the role, thus providing them with even more real-world work experience.

Kolling said she couldn’t be more proud of the graduates and the work they’ve done this year. She is also proud to work for UPMC, which offers this opportunity.

“Any business should reflect the community in which it resides,” Kolling said. “We have people here of all abilities, and everyone deserves the chance to be included and make a difference. To me, Project SEARCH provides that outlet, and it warms my heart.”

Project SEARCH operates on a school year schedule with applications due the prior school year. For more information about getting involved with Project SEARCH, contact Anthony Stough at stoughan2@upmc.edu.