On Saturday, October 17, 2016, staff from AHRC NYC’s Employment and Business Services, (EBS,) hosted an event in upper Manhattan for the expansion of Project SEARCH, an employment preparation program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

History of Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH was developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996, when Erin Riehle was Director of Cincinnati Children’s Emergency Department. Erin felt that because the hospital served individuals with developmental disabilities, it made sense that they should commit to hiring them. She wondered if it would be possible to train people with developmental disabilities to fill some of the high-turnover, entry-level positions in her department, which involved complex and systematic tasks such as stocking supply cabinets. As a starting point, Erin presented her ideas to Susie Rutkowski, then the Special Education Director at Great Oaks Career Campuses. Erin and Susie formed a partnership and launched Project SEARCH.

Since its inception, Project SEARCH has grown from a single program site at Cincinnati Children’s to over 300 sites across the United States and Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, and Australia. Project SEARCH’s primary objective is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities. These jobs are complex but routine, and provide a good compensation package, providing students with disabilities with the opportunity to graduate with well-paying jobs and a bright future.

Project SEARCH and AHRC NYC’s Employment and Business Services

AHRC NYC’s EBS department first became involved with Project SEARCH two years ago, with two state-of-the-art programs operated in the Bronx and in Brooklyn. The EBS department has been the Vocational Rehabilitation Provider for its Brooklyn location, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, and for the Bronx-Montefiore Medical Center Program. These are exciting educational and vocational opportunities for high school students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These programs have a clear goal of community-based paid employment, once the school year is completed. Project SEARCH is driven by collaboration with the following community partners:

  • Hospitals and Community Businesses
  • Local School Districts and Educational Organizations
  • Vocational Rehabilitation – ACCES-VR
  • Community Rehabilitation Partner – AHRC NYC
  • Employment Supports – OPWDD

Expansion of Project Search

This year, AHRC NYC is expanding Project SEARCH into Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Erin Riehle attended the event and presented Project SEARCH to various stakeholders who attended the meeting. The event provided a guide to Project SEARCH, outlined the roles of each partner, and shared success stories from the two existing programs in Bronx and Brooklyn. Attendees left the event energized and hopeful that this will make a difference for generations of students getting ready to exit the school system and move into adulthood and the working world.