An open letter to triangle-area high schools
Hello, my name is Sam Taylor, and I am a freshman at Duke University. I am hoping to share with you a way to change the lives of your disabled students for the better!
How many disabled individuals do you see in the work force? The answer: not nearly enough. However, this is a direct result of our school systems’ lack of opportunities for disabled students to prepare for this huge transition in their lives. In many instances, disabled students go from having a keen watchful eye upon them every second they are in school to graduating with little to no direction of where to go next. How do we, as a society (because it is only as a society that we can hope to succeed), solve this problem? Project SEARCH.
Project SEARCH is a program that allows disabled students to return to school for one year after they graduate in order to participate in internship opportunities throughout the local community. These internships provide the students with much-needed work experience and often lead to official job offers. As the school year progresses, the students rotate through each of the different internship opportunities to find the type of work that best suits each individual student. These positions can be janitorial work, food service, office assistance, etc. Even if the students don’t receive an official job offer, these internships serve to both prepare the student to enter the work force and to make them more attractive to potential employers.
I have seen the positive effects of Project SEARCH first-hand: my older brother Cole was a member of the first class of Project SEARCH from William Blount High School. He and five other students rotated through three different internship positions at a local college, and one of his classmates was offered a job in the campus cafeteria. All the students were so well prepared by the end of the year that the Blount County school district elected to offer them all jobs working in the local elementary and middle schools. My brother was also offered a job working at the college over the summer, allowing him to work year-round.
Some people never thought that those six students would ever be a part of the labor force, and they never would have been if it wasn’t for Project SEARCH. Every student deserves the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to succeed in the world, including our disabled students. This responsibility falls to our schools, and Project SEARCH is an effective means to fulfill that responsibility.
I understand that implementing a program like Project SEARCH in your school system may seem like a herculean task; however, the positive impact Project SEARCH has on the lives of the students and, through them, society as a whole makes any struggle insignificant in the long run. Your school is located near Duke and UNC Chapel Hill, both of which are prime areas for internship opportunities, and I believe that both universities would welcome your students to their communities.
I hope that you will consider implementing Project SEARCH or a program like it at your school because I believe that it can really make a difference for your disabled students. I have attached some different links about the Project SEARCH program at my high school, and I would encourage you to not hesitate in contacting me with any question or concerns regarding the Project SEARCH program. I will do anything and everything I can to facilitate the start of this amazing program, and if I don’t know something/can’t do something, I will personally find someone who can and will.
William Blount High School page on project SEARCH
TN Council on Developmental Disabilities magazine article about Project SEARCH (article #5)
Thank you for your time,
Duke Class of 2020
sdt23 [at] duke [dot] edu