Learning Today for a Great Tomorrow: The Work of Project SEARCH Interns

By Sara Porcaro | December 10, 2019

In the heart of Providence, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) building stands tall against a cloudy sky. It's a peaceful, albeit rainy morning, but the insurance company's office is alight inside, with professionals coming in to begin their day--and with a group of students, who are just settling into their classroom for another morning meeting before beginning their work. They're interns at the BCBSRI office, and through the Project SEARCH program, they're taking the opportunity to learn all they can about the working world!

Four young gentlemen, Ian, Andy, Andrew, and Guillermo, have been a part of the Project SEARCH program since the beginning of the year; it's a program that partners with the Providence and Cranston school systems, allowing students to get both classroom education and hands-on experience at internship sites like BCBSRI and The Miriam Hospital. Subjects taught include safe transportation, the value of networking, soft skills like communication, and more. All the while, the students complete sixty-day rotations in various positions at their internship site, ranging from food service experience in the cafeteria to data entry and computer experience.

Special Education Teacher Kelly Starliper-Morris, from Cranston schools, notes, "The program encourages students to try different positions so they can learn new skills, and it's a great way for them to find the work they love the most."

On the walls hang posters of the skills the students have learned, their current positions--such as Copy Room Assistant for Andy and Office Services Assistant for Ian--and their career aspirations for the future after the program. Andrew, who works in Strategic Sourcing and Vending Management, works to organize incoming documents from vendors to BCBSRI; he impresses his supervisor with his speed and accuracy in managing the organizational systems, and he's excelled in transferring files to a new computer system. But as a fan of finance work, along with learning the computer skills necessary for office jobs, he also learned to broaden his horizons: where he once thought he would work in a bank, he realized just how much finance work goes on in various types of companies.

"Working here has been amazing," Andrew says. "I have all these skills I can take to any office, and I'm really confident in my skills, too. My dream job is to work in an office with digital archiving and filing services."

With this recent rotation coming to a close, the students are moving on to new positions--including to the BCBSRI cafeteria for Guillermo, who loves cooking and hopes to one day work in a kitchen. Currently, his internship has him gaining janitorial experience, as he's in charge of keeping conference rooms clean and prepared for meetings. After, on a spreadsheet, he takes note of the state of each room and meeting reservations, as well as whether or not food or other items will be brought into any room.

"My favorite part of this job is managing my own time and going at my own pace," Guillermo says. "It's also helped me build my communication skills.

Job Coach Donna McKenna, who assists Kelly in teaching the employment material, says of Guillermo: "He does a fantastic job. He's thorough and precise, and he gets everything done right and in a timely manner; his supervisors appreciate his work."

The end of the year is well on the way, and these interns are already beginning the next step in their journey. Their enthusiasm and willingness to learn give all of them the motivation to not only perform exceptionally well at their work, but to learn the tools necessary to see their dreams through in the future. In this beautiful Providence office, the clock strikes nine--and with a smile, the students head off to their positions, looking forward to another day. Best wishes for 2020, everyone--and keep up the great work!