Project SEARCH honors supporters and interns

Bucks County IU 22  |  Posted on

Interns stand at the front of the room as each is individually introduced and honored.

“Dedicated,” “hard-working” and “impressive” are just some of the words being shared in conversations regarding Project SEARCH interns at the banquet held Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Hosted by the Bucks County Intermediate Unit (Bucks IU), the educational agency managing Project SEARCH Bucks, this event celebrated the successful completion of the program by this year’s third cohort of interns. Project SEARCH is an international program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities designed to help them secure competitive employment.

Students must apply for acceptance to this nine-month program in which they experience three employment internships through a total immersion in the workplace. The Bucks IU is grateful to the County of Bucks Administrative Offices and Justice Center as the host business location for this program. The many county divisions and offices provide students with a wide variety of work experiences, from technology services to clerical to building maintenance – all within a safe, inclusive environment.

“Project SEARCH represents the power that comes from organizations working together. Our interns gain exceptional experiences from these internships, and our partners in the county offices continually express their delight in the work the interns perform and the pleasure they get from working with these outstanding young people,” states Dr. Mark Hoffman, Bucks IU Executive Director.

The success of this partnership was recently recognized at the International Project SEARCH Conference, where Project SEARCH Bucks was awarded the “Excellent Employment Outcomes Award.” The model created by the Bucks IU, in partnership with the county, is now being shared with Project SEARCH programs worldwide.

Additional support and guidance for Project SEARCH Bucks is provided by the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), Bucks County Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Programs, and regional school districts.

Rebecca (Bex) Cohen represents the interns as the speaker at this year’s banquet. From a shy, quiet person at the start of her internship to now being the speaker, Bex has truly transformed. In fact, Bex has shown some of the most astounding growth of any intern in the program’s history. From the person who says early in the year that she could never see herself getting to work in a place like Neshaminy Manor to becoming the first intern to land a job, in her case at Pickering Manor in the dietary department, her evolution is astounding.

To close the evening, student interns then individually present their work mentors with a small token of appreciation along with their personal thanks. Lots of smiles, hugs and handshakes were exchanged as the personnel from the various county offices are thanked by these interns to whom they give so much. The 2023-2024 Project SEARCH Interns are:

  • Rebekah Alicea – Pennridge School District
  • Alexander Boyle – Centennial School District
  • Rebecca (Bex) Cohen – Lower Moreland School District
  • Zachary Ehrgott – Pennsbury School District
  • Paul Harris DeRohn – Palisades School District
  • Coleman Poster – Quakertown Community School District
  • Trevor Reinford – Pennridge School District
  • Brooke Rosenberg – New Hope/Solebury School District
  • Sophia Smith – Upper Moreland School District

County of Bucks elected officials, whose departments or offices support the Project SEARCH Bucks program with internships, happily attend the event. Thanks go out to Commissioner Robert J. Harvie Jr.; Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW; Linda Bobrin, Register of Wills; Coleen Christian, Prothonotary; Margaret McKevitt, Acting Chief Operating Officer; and Eileen Hartnett Albillar, Clerk of Courts.

Bucks County Commissioner Robert Harvie Jr., states, “County offices that participated in previous years have spoken so glowingly about their interns that now other offices and departments are clamoring to get on-board. Last year, the county Technology Department hired one of their interns upon completion of the program. This is an excellent program for everyone involved.”

Ten new Project SEARCH Interns are already selected and will begin their internships in the fall for the 2024-2025 program.