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Hospitals pleased with partnership benefiting special needs students

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Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco, right, meets Project SEARCH intern Ronald Charlot.
Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco, right, meets Project SEARCH intern Ronald Charlot. - ()

Three hospitals in the state, along with Bergen County, have partnered with Project SEARCH to give students with special needs and disabilities a chance to have an internship and apply skills obtained to a real-world job.

Project SEARCH originated at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in 1996 and has since been introduced to other health providers around the country. This is the first time hospitals in New Jersey are participating.

The three hospitals include Hackensack University Medical Center, Holy Name Medical Center and Kennedy Health.

The program is geared towards individuals ages 18 to 21 that are able to live on their own and desire the independence, through having a job, to do so.

HackensackUMC is hosting 11 students from the Bergen County Special Services school who are in their last year of high school. They will work in departments including human resources, payroll, food and nutrition, central processing, the Beyond Spa, perioperative services, The Center for Ambulatory Surgery and patient transport.

Holy Name said the goal of Project SEARCH is for competitive employment.  

“Students learn job skills that can be applied to numerous settings, not only hospitals. Project SEARCH focuses on a student's abilities, not disabilities. At the end of this school-year program, students are encouraged to apply for appropriate positions at this facility, as well as positions in the community,” according to a spokeswoman.

From left, Brian Fitzgibbons, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development; Tracy Zur, Bergen County freeholder; Mohammad Abulaimoun, Project SEARCH student; Tammy Molinelli, Bergen County Workforce Development Board; Howard Lerner, Bergen County Special Services School District; and Carolyn Biedenkapp, Center for Ambulatory Surgery, HackensackUMC.
From left, Brian Fitzgibbons, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development; Tracy Zur, Bergen County freeholder; Mohammad Abulaimoun, Project SEARCH student; Tammy Molinelli, Bergen County Workforce Development Board; Howard Lerner, Bergen County Special Services School District; and Carolyn Biedenkapp, Center for Ambulatory Surgery, HackensackUMC. - ()

Both hospitals said they would continue the program next year, and are excited about the opportunities to find the interns work after their time with the hospitals.

The programs in the state began in September and were officially announced last week.

“It has been exciting to see not only the departments involved directly with students, but the entire medical center rally around this program and contribute to its success,” said Hackensack President Dr. Ihor Sawzcuk. “The department supervisors and administrators have been very welcoming and accommodating to the program and individual student needs. Team members have been introduced to a variety of teaching methods, individual learning styles and training techniques. By hosting one of the first Project SEARCH classes in New Jersey, HackensackUMC has made a positive change in the community, in the lives of the interns and our team members. “

Holy Name CEO Michael Maron said, “Holy Name is proud to partner with Bergen County on this first-of-its-kind project in New Jersey. County Executive (Jim) Tedesco, Freeholder (Tracy) Zur and the entire Project SEARCH team have done an excellent job with this program in providing meaningful training to ensure better lives. As we continuously seek to offer resources to the underserved members of our community, we are proud to participate in this important initiative."

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