After an eye-opening year for students and staff alike, a virtual graduation was held for this year’s nine Project SEARCH students who completed their final year of high school at Toronto Rehab and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. The graduation on June 23rd celebrated a year of learning and new experiences that will help shape future employment opportunities.
Project SEARCH is an international transition-to-work program for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities and this group of Toronto District School Board (TDSB) students is the first graduating class in the city. Daily classroom sessions were held at Toronto Rehab while Holland Bloorview hosted the co-op placements in nutrition, environmental services, and administration.
"This year reinforced for all of us what is possible, when we build strong partnerships to support members of our community," says Sue Jewell, Senior Vice President and Executive Lead for Toronto Rehab.
"Seeing the confidence the students have developed, along with the marketable business and workplace skills that will help them be more successful in securing future employment opportunities, propels us forward, and we renew our commitment to the program."
We are grateful to our Toronto Rehab Foundation donors who made this first year of Project SEARCH possible, including: David Coriat and family, Mateo and Chris Liberta and family, Big Slick Children's Charity and Freddie DeGasperis Jr., Sofina Foods Foundation, and the GTA Master Plan fundraiser.
Even COVID-19 couldn't slow these students down
When the pandemic forced the program to pivot and adapt to a virtual platform, the students bid farewell to their co-op jobs and focused on individualized coaching and skill-building, tailored to each of their job aspirations.
"The students showed tremendous adaptability as we moved to daily video meeting learning," says Lisa Cunha de Freitas, Project SEARCH Toronto and TDSB teacher.
"They built skills related to the use of technology and demonstrated responsibility and resilience. With the support of Project SEARCH partner organizations, we were happy to be able to continue building momentum towards employment.
"The students are very excited about graduation and future employment prospects."
Project SEARCH reflects Toronto Rehab's commitment to improving employment outcomes for patients and Ontarians with disabilities. It's an extension of the LIFEspan program, which provides youth and young adults who have cerebral palsy or an acquired brain injury with a bridge between pediatric and adult rehabilitation services.
LIFEspan's emphasis is on helping young adults develop skills to manage their own care, navigate the adult system, and become more independent and fully engaged in the community.
Read full story on UHN.ca
View coverage on CBC – Our Toronto
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In Photo (Courtesy Project SEARCH): Student Congxiao Wang seen on the job at Holland Bloorview’s cafeteria where she learned how to use a cash register and make pizza. “I’m looking forward to using what I learned to get a job,” says Congxiao.