Congratulations, Class of 2020! We’re so proud of the interns from the Project SEARCH Autism Enhancement employment program who celebrated graduation on June 23rd on Zoom. This was a particularly challenging year with interruptions due to the pandemic, yet the interns adjusted and finished strong under the steadfast guidance of the program team.  The growth and joy they each experienced, as well as the relationships that they developed with each other and their employers, are evident in these graduation speech excerpts.

REFLECTIONS ON THE YEAR

“I’m glad and prideful today to FINALLY graduate. The experience on PSAE was like a real job, it was pretty hard, but I made it through it.  I learned to do video meetings and it’s the first time that I EVER worked at home. Even this COVID-19 pandemic won’t slow Project SEARCH down, it survived to June!”   Anthony

“I’m very excited to be here as a 2020 graduate today because when I first arrived in September, I felt uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure if I could handle feedback. I have learned that addressing feedback appropriately is an important job skill.”  Isabelle

 “This year was all sorts of nerve-wracking since this experience took me way out of my comfort zone, but I feel a sense of accomplishment for making it to this day.”   Madison

“I am very proud of [a] skill that I developed – my ability to work independently.”  Jason 

 “When I first came to the Project Search Program, I wasn’t sure that this was the right program for me. But when I think about this program, it was very helpful indeed. As I graduate from Project Search, I WILL REMEMBER THIS PLACE AND I HAD THE BEST INTERNS AND THE BEST PSAE STAFF I EVER HAD THIS YEAR IN 2020!”  Jason

FAVORITE PARTS OF THE PROGRAM

There were many parts of the program that I enjoyed. I especially enjoyed working with all the staff in the pharmacy this year. Isabelle

“My favorite part was working in Housekeeping and Pharmacy. I liked the Training Room and talking about Weekend Plans. I Like Going To The Cafeteria.” Ari

“I loved working as a member of a team and I learned many skills. I learned that it’s easier to work in a group.”  Kevin

“My favorite part of Project SEARCH was socializing with the other interns.” Jason

“My favorite times during Project SEARCH are laying out cookies on the baking sheets and sometimes packing them up in the Kitchen…”  Madison

“Another favorite moment was when the IT supervisors were surprised that I [completed all of my tasks] and they said, “You finished them all?” And then they gave me more!”  Nick

ADJUSTING TO THE PANDEMIC

“Because of the pandemic, I had to learn to work from home. Every morning I logged on to check emails and my workday schedule. I had to work on pre-vocational skills and record my activities on Google shared documents. I attended Google chat and Zoom video meetings with the other interns. It was a challenge but I got better at it eventually. It is not easy working from home. I learned that I’d rather go to a job than work at home. But you gotta do what you gotta do!”  Nick

“In the future I would like to work in an office, using some of the skills I learned in telecommuting. Data entry, learning Google tools and Zoom will help me a lot in the future. I will also like to continue taking art classes, my daily workout and learning to cook different types of food.”  Tariq

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

“In the future, I want to work at Golf courses in Florida.” Ari

“I’d like to move out and find an apartment, maybe with roommates. I’d also like to get my first job when COVID-19 pandemic dies down.”   Madison

“I pray that one day I’ll get a job in the beauty or hair department. Most likely either Sephora or the American Girl Hair Salon in New York City. They say that “It’s not the destination that matters, but the journey.” This journey of my life is going to be the best one ever because I’m a traveler and explorer. Nothing negative or critical will stop me from fulfilling my dream as a traveler and explorer.”  Isabelle

“In the future, I would like to work as a data entry clerk. My dream job is to be a historian. I will never put my dream job to rest. That is my ultimate goal. I also want to take some college classes and maybe years from now advertise for Pringles since I always have good ideas in my head for advertisements. I also want to be an Advocate for Habitat For Humanity.  A quote that I would like to share is: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” ― Confucius.  I hope everyone lives by that. I know I will.”  Nick

Project SEARCH Autism Enhancement was created in partnership with Project SEARCH and the TEACCH Autism Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. It is available for adoption by interested organizations.  This program is run by The ARC Westchester.