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Montefiore in the News

July 6, 2022

Melissa B. Haber, Assistant Director of Volunteer & Student Services at Montefiore Medical Center.

BRONX- The Bronx faced the highest unemployment rates of all NYC boroughs throughout the pandemic. Today, more than two years into the pandemic, programs that help set our communities and our residents up for successful, independent futures are more important than ever.

Pipeline programs – which are designed to provide skill-building, educational, and career support to students who face challenges applying to or entering the workforce – offer interventions such as test preparation, academic coursework, internship experiences, and mentoring to increase academic skills, teach students about the transition from academics to employment, and help establish opportunities for sustainable work.

One of these programs, Project SEARCH, provides employment training and education for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, not only preparing participants to enter the workforce but ensuring that program graduates are successfully maintaining competitive employment over time. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, across all age groups, persons with disabilities were much less likely to be employed than those with no disabilities, and across all educational attainment groups, unemployment rates for persons with a disability were higher than those for persons without a disability.

Project SEARCH is a successful job readiness program for high school students with disabilities, ages 18-21, and is recognized for its innovative approach and collaborative efforts between business, education, and vocational rehabilitative services. Project SEARCH employment outcomes far exceed the national average rate of employment for people with disabilities, with a 68% success rate in transitioning students from high school into competitive employment.

Montefiore became the first hospital in New York City to partner with Project SEARCH in 2014, with unwavering support from leadership and many departments that have hosted students throughout the years. Since partnering with Project SEARCH, 100 students have completed Montefiore’s program, with an average 75% employment rate each year. Students who join Montefiore as interns through Project SEARCH get to experience up to three 10-week rotations in departments such as Human Resources, Environmental Services, Nursing, Gastroenterology, and Cardiac Catheterization Lab, where they learn job-specific skills and develop the necessary “essential skills” to professionally interact with supervisors, colleagues, and patients. Last week, Montefiore proudly graduated 12 students from its 2021-2022 class.

“My confidence grew within the last year. I opened up more and was able to communicate better,” said graduate Genesis Perez, who was the graduation speaker. Genesis worked at the front desk of the Endoscopy Suite, where she greeted and assisted patients in English and Spanish. Richard Sepulveda, Montefiore facilities director, has championed Project SEARCH students since 2016, hosting them in the department.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is to mentor these students and help develop them professionally so they are marketable anywhere,” said Mr. Sepulveda, whose department currently employs Project SEARCH alumni. Project SEARCH is one of Montefiore’s many community-based pipeline/workforce programs designed to make a positive impact on the health and overall well-being of our Bronx community.

All of Montefiore’s pipeline/community workforce programs partner with high schools and colleges, community-based organizations, and workforce providers to offer customized programming to prepare the future healthcare workforce by bridging a platform to employment opportunities while breaking down barriers that historically have kept people from achieving professional success. “We are helping to build a workforce that is reflective of our community and patient population,” said Dana Politis, Director, Montefiore Community Workforce Programs.

“The long-term goal is to support economic stability and increase health equity by creating health leaders that come from the community they serve.” Access to workforce development benefits the individual, community, and workplace and programs like Project SEARCH remain a key element to preparing students for success, independence, and long-lasting careers. Montefiore Medical Center will welcome the Project SEARCH Class of 2023 this summer on July 5.