MSUToday
Published: Sept. 30, 2016

MSU launches school-to-work program for youth with disabilities

Contact(s): Nicole Geary Education office: (517) 355-1826 ngeary@msu.edu, Andy Henion Media Communications office: (517) 355-3294 cell: (517) 281-6949 Andy.Henion@cabs.msu.edu

Starting this fall, Michigan State University is helping young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities prepare for the workplace through a new on-campus internship program.

Spartan Project SEARCH combines a successful national program with the expertise of MSU researchers and partners committed to improving outcomes for students during a time when many fall behind—the transition from school to work.

Seventy to 80 percent of young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as autism or Down syndrome, are unemployed. Most rely heavily on caregivers after completing K-12 education and can become isolated and anxious or depressed, say program co-directors Marisa Fisher and Connie Sung.

In Spartan Project SEARCH, 10 students receive on-the-job support as interns in MSU settings such as offices, residence halls, cafes, doctor’s offices and animal clinics. Each of the interns, who come from school districts throughout Ingham County, will be paired with an MSU undergraduate student serving as a peer mentor. They start and end each day with instruction provided by Ingham Intermediate School District.

“The MSU campus simulates the real world in that it can offer not only job skills but also independent living skills, such as how to use public busing, be safe with strangers and experience leisure activities,” said Sung, assistant professor of rehabilitation counseling.

“Our goal is to foster acceptance among the MSU community and beyond, to help people recognize these young people have a lot to contribute to the work community and move past the stigma many of them face,” said Fisher, assistant professor of special education.

Spartan Project SEARCH is part of the Research in Autism, Intellectual and other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities initiative at MSU. Fisher and Sung, both faculty members in the College of Education, will study how the program impacts participants as well as the attitudes and perceptions of MSU students and staff that interact with them.

“This is a great opportunity for our young adult interns who have intellectual disabilities to find competitive employment and make a successful transition from school to adult life,” said Scott Koenigsknecht, superintendent of the Ingham ISD. “These partnerships really make a difference for students and our region, and we are grateful to work with our local districts and MSU on this initiative.”

MSU is one of 12 host sites to begin offering Project SEARCH programs throughout Michigan this year. Additional partners include Michigan Rehabilitation Services, the Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham Counties, Peckham Inc. and the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons.

The program is funded in part by Michigan Rehabilitation Services and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

An opening ceremony for Spartan Project SEARCH is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 5 at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, 640 S. Shaw Lane on the MSU campus in East Lansing.

Spartan Project SEARCH’s inaugural year has started this Fall semester at Michigan State University! Spartan Project SEARCH is a partnership between MSU, Ingham Intermediate School District, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Community Mental Health, Peckham Inc., and the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons. Spartan Project SEARCH brings a successful national program for young adults with developmental disabilities to the campus of Michigan State University, one of 12 program sites starting in Michigan. Participants will experience classroom and on-the-job learning in a variety of settings—with leadership and expertise from researchers in the MSU College of Education. The Secondary Transition program is a one-year educational program for students with disabilities. Participants have met local district requirements and spend a school year reporting to the Project SEARCH host business where they learn skills needed to obtain employment. Spartan Project SEARCH combines classroom time provided by Ingham Intermediate School District with a year-long unpaid internship at Michigan State University. This combination of instruction and immersion in the workplace prepares interns to meet employer expectations. Participants gain experience in a variety of settings that will align to their interests, abilities and availability.

Spartan Project SEARCH’s inaugural year has started this Fall semester at Michigan State University! Spartan Project SEARCH is a partnership between MSU, Ingham Intermediate School District, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Community Mental Health, Peckham Inc., and the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons. Spartan Project SEARCH brings a successful national program for young adults with developmental disabilities to the campus of Michigan State University, one of 12 program sites starting in Michigan. Participants will experience classroom and on-the-job learning in a variety of settings—with leadership and expertise from researchers in the MSU College of Education. The Secondary Transition program is a one-year educational program for students with disabilities. Participants have met local district requirements and spend a school year reporting to the Project SEARCH host business where they learn skills needed to obtain employment. Spartan Project SEARCH combines classroom time provided by Ingham Intermediate School District with a year-long unpaid internship at Michigan State University. This combination of instruction and immersion in the workplace prepares interns to meet employer expectations. Participants gain experience in a variety of settings that will align to their interests, abilities and availability.

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