Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH is a national one-year, high school transition program for students with disabilities between the ages of 18-21 that provides training and education with the goal of obtaining competitive employment.  The program was developed at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital in 1994. 

Local implementation is the first employment program undertaken by Rochester's Institute for Innovative Transition.  The Institute, established in 2009 with funding from the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation, aims to improve the quality of life for young adults with developmental disabilities and their families as they transition from school age to adulthood. The Institute is a collaboration of the Golisano Foundation, Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, and the Warner School of Education.  Additional information about the Institute is available on their website.  

Project SEARCH was launched locally at the City of Rochester in September 2010 in collaboration with the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities of the Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester, the Arc of Monroe County, the Rochester City School District, and the City of Rochester.   Key aspects include: 

  • Students attend class on-site at the host business to learn employability skills.
  • Students participate in three 10-week internships focusing on acquiring discreet job skills.
  • Students are supported by a classroom teacher, paraprofessional, and job coach.  This staffing is fully funded by the host school district (Rochester City School District) and partner vocational rehabilitation agency (Arc of Monroe County)
  • There is no cost to the host business to participate in Project SEARCH other than the supply of on-site resources (e.g. classroom, access to phone and copier).

Project SEARCH News

In October 2013, the Rochester City School District (RCSD) received the 2013 Works for Me award from OPWDD (Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities) in the category of youth transition.  Representatives from Arc of Monroe, and Project SEARCH graduate Ashley Pigler were on hand in Albany to receive the award.  While RCSD's Work Expereience Program (WEP) program was the named award recipient, it was Project SEARCH at the City of Rochester (a parternship of the City of Rochester, RCSD WEP, Arc of Monroe, ACCES-VR and OPWDD) that was the impetus for the award as well as the highlight of the award video. 

Congrats to the Project SEARCH City of Rochester team! 


People with disabilities have the right to choose a path toward education and employment.  However, while freedom of choice is given, the right to work is earned.  Earning the right to work is dependent upon the student’s preparation.

Program Goals 

  • Provide employability skills training to students with significant disabilities through on-site emersion in a business.
  • Provide supports to the business to encourage the hiring of individuals with disabilities.  

City as the Project SEARCH Business Partner

The City is responsible for providing:

  • a minimum of 12 internship assignments
  • classroom and work space for students and staff
  • Orientation of Project SEARCH staff to City Hall, and City staff to the project
  • Participation in ongoing program evaluation

City Work Assignments

Seven City departments provided a total of 15 work assignments for Project SEARCH students in 2010-11.   These assignments ranged from office tasks to assisting in vehicle maintenance.  The 2011-12 program began September 5, 2011 .  Work assignments will be identified by mid-October. 

Project SEARCH Newsletter

Project SEARCH - Spring Edition 

Project SEARCH Working Committee 

Julie Christensen, Health Project Coordinator, URMC
Susan Hetherington, Director Project SEARCH

City of Rochester   
     Sandra J. Simon
    Christine Martinelli

Rochester City School District
        Colleen Brindamour  
        Vanessa Peterson
        Teresa Root 

Tammy Reynolds, Arc of Monroe
Ann Costello, Golisano Foundation
Martha Mock, Project SEARCH

For more information, please contact Sandra Simon at (585) 428-6509 or