October is National Disability Employment Awareness month, and the Fresno Pacific University Office of Continuing Education participated in a program to help people with intellectual developmental disabilities gain employment.

The program was through Project Search, which works with young adults aged 18-22 years old with significant disabilities, and 70 percent of participants get jobs after their year-long internship. Project Search collaborated with Best Buddies International, Community Regional Medical Center and FPU.

Community provided three different employment opportunities for each of the nine interns to immerse them in the workplace. FPU ran Career and Workplace Readiness (HBM 50), a 1-unit workshop with Mark Knape, supervisor for Best Buddies in Fresno, as instructor of record. In the workshop, interns learned both soft and hard skills, such as how to communicate with others and developing a work ethic. Interns worked in several hospital departments: IT, guest services at Terry’s House (a house for family to be near hospitalized loved ones), the kitchen and antepartum. One baked brownies for guests at Terry’s House.

Peggi Kriegbaum, director of the Office of Continuing Education, and Paulette Matsubara, director of operations, attended the first Project Search Fresno graduation ceremony October 12, 2018. Kriegbaum presented each graduating intern a certificate of completion from Fresno Pacific University Continuing Education.

Project Search was developed in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center, when Emergency Room Director Erin Riehle felt the hospital should commit to hiring people with developmental disabilities. More at projectsearch.us/

Best Buddies International was founded by Chairman & CEO Anthony Kennedy Shriver in 1989 to foster friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. More at bestbuddies.org/

PHOTO: Back row, from left—Jaime Caine, Jorge Rincon, Andrew Hornbaker, Drew Petersen and Gregory Villalobos (all interns). Front row, from left—Matsubara (FPU), Andre Sanchez, Margaret Maskovish, Heather Pasillas and Giovanni Sanchez (interns) and Kriegbaum (FPU).