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Emerging Practices with Promise

Submitted By: Ofelia R Arellano, Pasadena Area Consortium

Project SEARCH: High School Transition for Adults with Disabilities

The Challenge

The majority of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are either unemployed or underemployed, despite their ability, desire, and willingness to work in the community.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly reports that the percentage of working-age people with disabilities in the labor force is about one-third that of persons with no disability. On average, workers with disabilities face significant gaps in pay and compensation, compared to workers with no disability.

Students participating in the Pasadena Unified School District(PUSD) Adult Living Skills (PALS) Center need programs to assist them in transitioning into the workforce or postsecondary education.

The Solution

Project SEARCH is a unique, business-led, school-to-work program for adults with disabilities modeled after Project Search at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio. The Pasadena City College (PCC), PUSD, FVO Solutions (nonprofit serving adults with disabilities with employment opportunities), Inc., and the Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center will collaborate to provide adults with developmental disabilities internship opportunities to facilitate the acquisition of job skills.

The Project SEARCH collaboration will provide real-life work experiences combined with training in employability and independent living skills to help adults with developmental disabilities make successful transitions from school to productive adult life.


Project SEARCH will launch in October 2015 with the goal of providing at least six (6) internship opportunities at PCC. The goal for each participant is competitive employment. Activities will include extensive period of training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, long-term job coaching, and continuous feedback from faculty, job coaches, and employers. The final outcome is that students with developmental disabilities are employed in nontraditional, complex, and rewarding jobs. Of utmost importance, Project SEARCH participants will bring long-term changes in a college culture that has far-reaching positive effects on attitudes about hiring individuals with disabilities and the range of jobs in which they can succeed.

The Data

After completion of the first year of Project SEARCH data to be collected and reported will include achievement of core integrated technical and academic competencies such as leadership, teamwork, work ethic, interpersonal relationships, applying self-management processes in the workplace, applying career skills, job-seeking skills, and technology literacy. The ultimate outcome is job placement.

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