For Immediate Release - December 09, 2015

Nine visually impaired young adults recognized by state leaders for their participation in the Project SEARCH internship program

Massachusetts Commission for the Blind is the first blindness agency in the country to initiate the program

BOSTON – Today the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB), in partnership with Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Cambridge Health Alliance, announced that nine young adults graduated from a nine-month internship program that provides individuals who are blind with real-life work experience.

The program, called Project SEARCH, helps young adults with visual impairments prepare for a job in the workforce by providing them with training in employability and independent living skills.

In a graduation ceremony at the State House today, nine interns were lauded by Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) Secretary Marylou Sudders, MCB Commissioner Paul Saner and Project SEARCH Program Specialist Paula Johnson.

“I would like to commend MCB for their innovative and forward-thinking approach to bringing this program to their agency,” said Secretary Sudders. “This initiative is an investment in the future of our citizens as MCB works in partnership with employers to create opportunities for young adults to develop critical job skills and work experience that will position them to become future leaders in the Commonwealth.”

MCB is the first blindness agency in the country to initiate the Project SEARCH program.

“In an effort to address the disparities between the national unemployment rate and the unemployment rate among Americans with a visual impairment, MCB is proud to play its part to initiate a Project SEARCH program,” said MCB Commissioner Paul Saner.

The 2015 Project SEARCH interns rotated through three internships at Mass Eye and Ear and Cambridge Health Alliance. Additionally, two non-profit service providers, the Carroll Center for the Blind and the Polus Center for Social and Economic Development, were selected as MCB’s on-site partners and provided training and support to the interns and two business partners.

Every day, they received employment instruction in the classroom, job related skills, worked in various hospital departments and received feedback from their teachers and job coaches.

Mass Eye and Ear President and CEO John Fernandez spoke about how beneficial this program has been to his organization and why others organizations need to step up and initiate similar programs.  Cambridge Health Alliance CEO Patrick Wardell also commented about the importance of successful partnerships and the impact the interns had on his employees and visitors to their two hospitals.

“We are thrilled to be at the forefront of finding alternative ways to address the unemployment rate among individuals with a visual impairment,” said John Fernandez, Mass Eye and Ear President and CEO. “This is a living example of why we need to encourage other businesses to provide opportunities for this skilled, dedicated and capable workforce.”

Interns shared personal accounts of their experiences in Project SEARCH, including learning about how to apply for a job and present themselves in job interviews.

“The goal here is to allow these interns to have the unique opportunity to receive a quality classroom education while developing skills to help them obtain a job upon their graduation,” said Paula Johnson, a Project SEARCH Program Specialist.

Two of the interns have already been offered per diem positions.

“CHA continues to be committed to diversifying its workforce and our participation in programs like Project SEARCH highlights this commitment,” said Patrick Wardell, CEO Cambridge Health Alliance. “This also allows us to reaffirm our responsibility to help community members with disabilities overcome obstacles to employment.”

Project SEARCH has grown from one original program site at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to approximately 400 sites across 42 states and four countries. A list of interns is available upon request.