So Much Potential

Don Langer, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan, Texas with 2015 Project Search graduates
Don Langer, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan, Texas with 2015 Project Search graduates

“Our kids have so much more potential than people sometimes give them credit for,” is how Dawn Carlson, Fort Bend ISD’s Director of Special Education, described the group of 10 students who graduated this week from Project SEARCH, a partnership among UnitedHealthcare, Fort Bend ISD and the Texas Department of Rehabilitative Services.

As part of its mission to help all people live healthier lives, UnitedHealthcare donated $15,000 to fund Project SEARCH, an innovative school-to-work program created to train and hire young people ages 18-22 who are living with disabilities.

During the 2014-2015 school year, ten Sugar Land students served as interns at UnitedHealthcare’s Houston office, working one on one with UHC team members and gaining confidence, pride, office skills and hope for the future.

It was amazing to watch the transformation of the kids since they started working in the UHC office, both with job skills and social skills. When they first showed up, the kids were very nervous but within a couple of weeks, they were answering questions at an all-employee meeting with more than 300 people. UnitedHealthcare sees enormous potential through its partnership with Project SEARCH and believes it is a program every company should consider.

Project SEARCH was developed nearly twenty years ago at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, after Erin Riehle, Director of the Emergency Department, wondered if it would be possible to train some of the individuals with disabilities who were patients at the hospital to perform high-turnover, entry-level positions. Erin joined with Susie Rutkowski, Special Education Director at Great Oaks Career Campuses, to launch Project SEARCH. This successful initiative has grown to 280 sites in the United States and globally; helping thousands of people with disabilities develop opportunities to become gainfully employed.

Congratulations to our 2015 Project Search graduates and their families. Your potential is unlimited!