SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT- A group of students from three local high schools were greeted at their homes by a caravan of cars.
The car caravan was to congratulate special education students from Mount Mansfield Union High School, Colchester High School, and South Burlington High School for completing an internship program called Project search.
Project search is a one-year internship program for students with disabilities in their last year of high school. The goal of the program is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities. Due to the pandemic, six graduates of the program had to celebrate in a different way than normal.
Members of the program drove to each students’ house greeting them with cheers, posters, balloons, and most importantly, their certificate of completion.
Sadie Haupt, a special education student in her last year at Mount Mansfield Union High School said she was so excited to see everyone drive in their cars to support her.
“It was really cool,” said Sadie.
Sadie officially finished her internship program with Project Search on Friday and she is looking forward to joining the workforce
“I’m looking for a job at a bakery or an office,” said Sadie.
Project search is a national program originally developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. In Vermont, the program is a partnership between UVM Medical Center, the Howard Center, South Burlington Schools, Vocational rehab, and the state agency of education.
Coordinator and instructor of the program Deborah Baker-Moody said it is a great way to provide students with the skills and confidence they need to earn a competitive job after high school.
“It’s a community partnership. So, it means quite a bit to these guys. To be able to feel confidant to go out, and they are used to working with coworkers. They have built their stamina working everyday all day long,” said Baker-Moody.
Sadie had two internships at UVM Medical Center before switching to work at home during the pandemic. Her mom said the internships have shown everyone what she is capable of.
“It’s nice to see others recognize it. She had a lot of feedback from people she worked with at the hospital,” said Eileen Haupt.
Baker -Moody said the program shows the community the importance of inclusion in the workforce.
“I think they bring so much value to the world of work and people are amazed and it kind of creates a culture change when you see what people can do,” said Baker-Moody.
The program will have an official virtual completion ceremony on zoom taking place on June 3rd.