SDSU Brookings Project SEARCH Award

It’s hard to believe we are halfway through the summer already.  This July, Matt Simet and Kyrsten Zimmerman were fortunate to have the privilege of attending the international Project SEARCH conference, located in Phoenix, Arizona.  ADVANCE/Career Advantage, The Division of Rehabilitation Services, SDSU and the Brookings School District are all partners in the SDSU Brookings Project SEARCH program, located on campus and hosted by SDSU.  ADVANCE/Career Advantage facilitates the job coach services during the Project SEARCH year, and then continues with the long term support component following graduation.  Kyrsten Zimmerman works on site at SDSU and is the program’s full time Job Coach.  Kyrsten is responsible for communications with SDSU staff and directors, students, the family members of the interns, board members, and program partners.  She facilitates meetings, writes grants, helps recruit, market, and promotes the program’s activities, develops new internship opportunities, while balancing internship rotations throughout the SDSU campus.  She teaches functionally transferable skills both on the job and in the classroom.  Project SEARCH student interns complete three different internship rotations during the year, one every 10-12 weeks.  Internships have included food service, the SDSU Wellness Center, the SD Agricultural Heritage Museum, the University Bookstore, the Office of the Provost, and University Housing.  The goal of Project SEARCH is to achieve competitive employment for every student who participates. 

The international Project SEARCH conference drew attendees from programs across the United States, as well as from the United Kingdom, Canada, Europe, and more.  There are over 400 Project SEARCH programs throughout 45 states, Canada, England, Scotland, and Ireland.  The SDSU/Brookings Project SEARCH program received a request to present a breakout session at this year’s conference.  Kyrsten along with Larry Ayres (SDSU Brookings Project SEARCH Coordinator, Brookings School District) led a presentation and group discussion about making a Project SEARCH site successful in a university campus setting.  It was a lively, informative, well-attended discussion!  Matt participated in the discussion, but notable sessions he attended focused on the upcoming Employment First model, as well as a presentation focused on Transitioning Individuals from a Sheltered Workshop into Competitive Employment.  Kyrsten was impressed with presentations covering Systematic Instruction as well as a new online assessment tool that can be used to determine an intern’s "Vocational Fit."  

It was a great honor to attend the conference and to represent ADVANCE/Career Advantage’s role in the program and as a valued partner in the program.  The SDSU/Brookings Project SEARCH team was one of thirty-three programs worldwide to be recognized with an award for achieving 100% Employment Outcomes for each of the students that participated in our first year 2013-2014.

By: Kyrsten Zimmerman and Matt Simet