Project SEARCH helps young people with developmental disabilities find jobs in Kansas City

Posted at 4:38 PM, Feb 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 18:23:05-05

While Drew VanDee and Trae'shell Bowden have different dreams, their goals are similar.

"I would like to be able to buy my dad's old Mustang and take that racing," said VanDee, 19. "I want to be able to take some friends out to dinner, race like my dad did and I guess end up like my dad."
"When I first get my first paycheck I want to help out my mom because she' been my number one supporter ever since I was little," said Bowden.

But because they are young adults living with developmental disabilities, gaining the skills to secure a job is tough.

"It's just as important for a person with disabilities to have a job as it is for you and I to have our jobs," said Rita Richards, a special education teacher for North Kansas City Schools. "A job provides financial security. It provides a purpose and a feeling of productivity in your life."

That's where Project SEARCH, an internship program that helps young adults with disabilities transitions from school to adult life, comes in. Richards is part of the team that brings the students from the district to Truman Medical Centers in downtown Kansas City.

"The students with disabilities are very underemployed," she explained. "It is more than just graduation rates and we put them out the door. We want our students to be successful and contributing members of society beyond the high schools."

Only about 18 percent of Americans with disabilities are employed, but through a partnership between Truman Medical Centers and the North Kansas City School District, 80 percent of all Project SEARCH participants in Kansas City are earning a paycheck.

"I wanted to learn job skills and to better myself and my future," said Bowden. "I've always had a passion for helping kids especially with learning or playing with them and teaching them right from wrong."
Bowden hopes to secure a job at a daycare to make that dream a reality.

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