County’s Project SEARCH effort off to a good start

 In the right photo, Thomas Gill is cleaning door windows with his rotation with the maintenance department.Having completed the first of three 10-week rotations, the first three interns enrolled in Tabor College Project SEARCH are successfully navigating the path of personal growth and future employability.

“I really think it’s going as well as can be expected at this point,” said Rob Haude, program director and lead teacher.

The goal of the program is to help people with disabilities develop work skills and social skills, within the day-to-day workplace, that will enable them to enjoy a more fulfilling and independent future.

“We have a strong steering committee, which are adult professionals from surrounding towns within our county,” Haude said. “It’s been a year now since the ball started rolling in this community. They have been on board and very involved. That has had a huge impact on our success.”

Interns Ally Larson, Thomas Gill and Ryan Hutton began the program in August with a two-week discovery phase where they explore their particular strengths and interests to match them with employment possibilities within the college campus.

“It also stretches them and allows them to grow and learn new employability skills and tasks that they might not have in that area of interest,” Haude said.

During a 10-week rotations, the average day begins at 8 a.m. with an hour of instruction that Haude leads in the Project SEARCH training room.

“We cover a variety of different topics—discovering the way in which we learn, how we work and how we learn is something we want to experience in the workplace. It’s important to know how you learn.

“We also talk about social skills, employability skills, job-related skills—things like communication with others one-on-one, communication with the boss and working with a team.

“Interpersonal skills are really important, so we work on that—developing resumes, cover letters and things like that.”

An average day

Following instruction time, each intern begins working in one of the departments within the college structure. Initially, that has been the athletic training department, facilities and maintenance operation and the college library.

The workday generally runs from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

“They each start with basic entry-level skills where they would start within the department,” Haude said. “When they master those beginning skills, they’re introduced to higher-level skills. That’s all done within the department, and those skills were identified before they started.”

Within their particular department, each intern is assigned a manager and also a business mentor.

“It’s somebody who is more like a contact for them, an individual who would show them around the workplace, introduce them to the work staff and be a contact for them if they have questions.

“The mentor feels more of that role,” he added. “The manager is the one they would go to for any questions—just like a typical job setting. We try to replicate that.”

Lunch as learning

Lunch provides the interns with nourishment as well as an opportunity to develop social skills.

“Lunch time happens within their departments, so it depends on how their department does lunch,” Haude said. “Everybody has the same amount of time, but it may not be at the same time of day.”

When the work day ends at 2:30 p.m., the interns meet for a final half hour for a time of instruction and debriefing about the day, then the interns head home.Tabor College Project Search interns have started their second 10-week rotation with the program. In the left photo, Ryan Hutton is working with college’s athletic training department.

“Transportation is a piece of the program that is supposed to be independent,” Haude said. “They have to come up with what the means of transportation will be.”

Two of the interns live in Marion County, the third lives in Newton.

“One of the things we struggle with in our county is trying to find some transportation that’s public,” Haude said. ‘We don’t have any that goes from town to town, or anywhere in our county. I foresee that as a possible roadblock for the future for us.”

Mutual good feelings

The interns seem to be enjoying the program, given the following comments.

“I like Tabor College Project SEARCH because it is not school,” Larson said.

Gill said,“I like Tabor College Project SEARCH because I get to learn new skills.”

Hutton said, “I like Tabor College Project SEARCH because I am a people person and I get to go to the Tabor events for free.”

Haude said both the program and the interns have been well accepted on campus.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “The students at Tabor have been very cordial, polite and kind to these individuals—even helpful, by helping them navigate campus and answering questions that might seem easy for students, but not for these people who are just learning the ‘Tabor way.’

“It’s been good.”

Haude said a uniqueness of Tabor’s program is that it has begun has a “social mentor program,” where a current Tabor student, identified within the education department to be a good role model, is matched with each intern.

“We’re just starting that,” Haude said. “I think it could be a life-changing experience for the Tabor student, too.”

Looking ahead

While Tabor College Project SEARCH will stick with three interns for now, Haude believes there is room for growth.

“We want more,” he said. “We feel like for this program to sustain itself, we need more. Tabor is allowing us six right now. We would like to have that number next year.”

The program has been partially funded by a grant through Northview Develop­mental Services Inc., a privately held company in Newton that serves the needs of people with disabilities.

“They have provided us funds for at least two to three years,” Haude said. “We’re very thankful for them.”

Personal impact

So what kind of impact has Tabor College Project SEARCH made on the program director?

“I really enjoy it,” Haude said. “For me, it’s been like a journey. I’ve been in the elementary school level, middle school and quite a bit of time in the high school. So now I’m getting this piece of adulthood and what it’s like teaching adults. I’m really enjoying that.

“This is going to be a life-changing experience for some of these people,” he added. “To have some influence on that, it’s exciting. It feels great to be a part of that, and to see these people take that next step in life.”

Tabor to host Project SEARCH information night Nov. 30

Tabor College Project SEARCH will host an information event from 4-6 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 30.

As of Jan. 11, 2017, Tabor has taken on the role as the official Project SEARCH site in Marion County. Three interns joined Tabor in work roles in August and the steering committee for the program has begun recruiting interns for the 2018-19 year.

An informative session will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Student Center, followed by a Q&A and tour of the campus. Parents and prospective students age 18 to 30 are encouraged to attend, and applications for next year will be available.

To RSVP, contact Rob Haude at or 661-496-9782. For further information about the program, visit the official website at

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