Project SEARCH is placing developmentally disabled adults into internships across the country. It’s a task they’ve been doing since 1996, and Alameda was the first public entity in the country to hire their students as interns.

Transitioning three uniquely capable students into the office didn’t follow the normal pattern. There was training for the new interns, but also for the county employees. They were shown that these new interns were ready to handle the workload and would be assets in the office.

One of the interns graduated from UC Berkeley with a perfect GPA. But because of his autism, he had trouble finding a job. After he demonstrated his abilities as an intern, the personnel begged he be hired. He was. His first day will be February 20.

From the Oakland Tribune:

Before the Project SEARCH interns first reported to work last year, a training was held for county employees. Its purpose, explained assistant county administrator Donna Linton, was to “reassure our staff members that these individuals are ready to come in and do the work.”

That, of course, was before they met the likes of Brianna Murray, Tammy Williams and Joel Sidney. They and seven other adults with developmental disabilities spent a year taking job skills classes and rotating through county departments as unpaid interns. There, with the help of job coaches, they learned the ins and outs of filing, data entry and other clerical duties — skills to help them land an office job.

Public defender Diane Bellas said her three interns took on tough tasks, sometimes fielding emotionally charged phone calls from jail and from defendants’ family members. If she had vacancies, she said, “I would, without hesitation, hire any of the three.”

Read the full article here.