Clarkston students to benefit from special professional training program

Clarkston students to benefit from special professional training program

By Matt Mackinder
Clarkston News Editor

On Aug. 31 at the Karmanos Cancer Institute inside McLaren Clarkston, McLaren Oakland, Project SEARCH, and Clarkston Community Schools announced a collaboration to open a student Project SEARCH site at McLaren Clarkston that will be a benefit to the local community.
Project SEARCH is a nationwide initiative dedicated to providing young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities additional training and education in professional environments following their completion of school. Participants of Project SEARCH will perform various non-clinical duties and assist the staff within the medical office building at McLaren Clarkston.
“When we were first approached about this partnership, and we learned more about Project SEARCH and its mission, I was immediately inspired and was proud to have been asked to be a part of it,” said Tracey Franovich, McLaren Oakland president and CEO. “We’re thrilled to have this first class at McLaren Clarkston, and the staff will surely enjoy their presence and welcome their contributions.”
A nine-month, internship-style program for 18- to 26-year-olds, Project SEARCH aims to provide its students with skills to help them obtain competitive employment upon completion. At McLaren Clarkston, students will work with staff in the emergency department, breast center, diagnostic imaging department, and physical therapy. They will assist in various responsibilities, including greeting and directing patients, office work, contacting patients about appointment reminders, rounding on patients for comfort, and other duties.
“This is an outstanding opportunity for our students,” said Clarkston Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Shawn Ryan. “Not only do our students gain the training and experience needed for gainful employment, but they also open doors to a future brimming with excitement and opportunities. Our partnership with McLaren and Project SEARCH exemplifies the transformative power of collaboration between organizations, showcasing the vital importance of such partnerships in today’s educational landscape.”
With sites in health care, government, and business, participants are exposed to a variety of career paths and can immerse themselves in these workplaces in order to become familiar with them.
Department managers at the internship sites work with the dedicated Project SEARCH special education teacher, support staff, and job coaches to provide guidance, accommodations, and support to improve the student on-site job performance. Students receive continual feedback from the internship manager, co-workers, and Project SEARCH staff, completing each day with group reflection, problem solving, planning, and journaling their key learnings.
“I am thrilled to collaborate with McLaren Oakland and Clarkston Community Schools,” said Sarah Winslow, statewide Project SEARCH director. “All of the partners have worked diligently to make this program a reality, and I know it’s going to be a win-win for both the interns and the hospital.”
While this is the organization’s first partner in Clarkston, Project SEARCH has multiple partnerships and opportunities for its students in Oakland County and throughout the Metro Detroit area. For this 2023-24 school year, Project SEARCH’s partnerships have provided its students with 17 sites throughout the state.
Started in 1996 at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to serve the facility’s employees with developmental disabilities, furthering their training with complex and systematic tasks. The Project SEARCH has since expanded nationwide, with more than 730 host sites in 48 states.

PHOTO: Left to right, top to bottom, are Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Nancy Mahoney, Executive Director of Student Support Services Stacey Theophelis, Clarkston Community Schools Board President Greg Need, CCS Superintendent Dr. Shawn Ryan, Project SEARCH intern Elijah Jacobson, Project SEARCH CCS teacher Jamie Peters, CCS Student Support Services Transition Coordinator Stephanie Simony, Project SEARCH intern Mitchell Martin, Project SEARCH intern Arielle Williams, and Project SEARCH intern Daniel Crull. Photo: Kelly Allen/Clarkston Community Schools

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