Project SEARCH is a Learning Experience for Interns and Their Mentors

By Deron Hamel

Monica Courser says the Project SEARCH initiative at St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre has been benefiting the student interns who are doing placements at the Brantford long-term care home through the program as well as the workplace “champions” who are mentoring them.

A dietary aide at St. Joe’s, Monica says the interns involved with Project SEARCH are learning valuable skills they can use in the workforce, while workplace champions are feeling a sense of pride in helping them take an important step in their career paths.

As a workplace champion, Monica has teamed up with one of the interns, Justyse Devins, and the two work in the kitchen preparing and serving St. Joe’s residents their meals as well as taking care of other kitchen duties.

This is the first time Monica has been a workplace champion in the Project SEARCH initiative, and it’s an experience she describes with one word: “excellent.”

“(Justyse is) quite thorough, (and) it’s quite enjoyable to have a student and work with her and teach her a little bit of what I know.”

In fact, Monica says she has enjoyed mentoring Justyse so much she often finds herself using her own time to think of ways to teach her and help her do the best job possible.

For example, Monica realized that Justyse thrives when doing work that’s consistent. So, Monica has found work for her that involves lots of consistency, like making sandwiches.

“We took away one job that she was doing so she could just focus just on the sandwiches this week so she wouldn’t feel pressure with the time crunch that we seem to be under sometimes,” Monica says.

Justyse has fit in well and has transitioned into her role easily, she adds.

“She’s enjoying it,” Monica says, adding she has been an exceptionally fast learner. “She only has to be told once or twice on how to do something. She’s quite thorough, (and) it’s quite enjoyable to have a student and work with her and teach her a little bit of what I know.”

Project SEARCH is a dynamic training program that’s connecting students with disabilities to St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre where they learn skills from their workplace mentors, who are called “champions”.

A three-way partnership between Community Living Brant, St. Joe’s and Grand Erie District School Board, Project SEARCH pairs students aged 18 to 21 with three different co-op experiences that utilize in-demand roles and provides them with more than 700 training hours to help them learn new skills and prepare for the job market.

Monica says Project SEARCH is proving to be a positive learning experience for everyone involved.

“I think (it works) both ways,” she says. “I think it’s (positive) for the students as well as the staff.”

Lead photo caption: Justyse Devins (right) with Monica Courser, making sandwiches.

— This story is Part 2 of a three-part series on the Project SEARCH program. Read part 1 here. Read part 3 here.


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