by Terry Rogers
On Monday, April 30, two Milford High School students signed agreements to enter Project SEARCH, a new partnership between Milford, Caesar Rodney School District and DelDOT. Carlos Rabadan-Nava and Michael Hartzell will work as interns at DelDOT over the next year in order to gain hands-on job skills.
Project SEARCH is designed for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As part of the program, students work through three rotations at DelDOT as interns. Upon completion of the program, Project SEARCH’s goal is to place those students in permanent employment. According to Shawn Snyder, Principal, of Milford High School, the placement rate for Project SEARCH is near 100 percent.
“We’re just really, really proud of both Carlos and Michael,” Snyder said. “The work that those guys have done here at Milford High School has been exemplary. Michael runs track and swims for us and Carlos has really turned on the academics, getting great grades. What you two gentlemen have been able to overcome and be able to be excellent students here at Milford High School makes us very proud. We know the Department of Transportation is going to love you guys and that you are probably going to have long, wonderful careers with them. We expect great things from both of you.”
Jennifer Wilson, who works with candidates for Project SEARCH for Milford High School, assists in identifying the students who would be a good match for the program. The program is explained to the students and those with an interest must complete an application which requires an essay regarding why they would be a good fit. Students are then interviewed by Project SEARCH and DelDOT who determine which students would be a good match. In addition to the internship, classroom time is provided teaching students the soft skills necessary for job success.
“This is the second year for the DelDOT project at Milford,” Wilson said. “This is a brand-new partnership, so this is only the second group to go through it. There is a Project SEARCH through Bayhealth and one of our students, Leon Jackson, participated in that last year. He was just recognized by the Board of Education for his achievements in the program.”
Rabadan-Nava hopes to develop skills as a mechanic while working at DelDOT. He looked at Project SEARCH as an opportunity to learn and get hands-on training in his chosen career path. He also felt that job skills provided by the program would be beneficial to him in the future.
“I want to work on utility vehicles and learn how to use different tools and technology,” Hartzell said. “I want to know how to fix things and I also need to know how to be better at driving.” During a track meet the day before, Hartzell stopped in the middle of his meet to assist another student who had fallen down. When asked how he did in the race, he commented that he “did not do as well as he could have because he helped someone, but that is what I like to do. I like to help people.” Snyder said that statement summed up the type of student Hartzell was, always ready to help another person in need.
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