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Westside Community School’s Project SEARCH helps special needs students land jobs

Tears were flowing as eight students with disabilities received their diplomas Friday.
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 6:29 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Tears were flowing as eight special needs students received their diplomas Friday.

Behind the tears were families beaming with pride.

21-year-old Josh Block is one of the students graduating. For the past 10 months, he’s been hard at work interning at Children’s Hospital.

“I went to every floor and took out the trash. For food services, I helped to prepare food each day,” said Josh Block, Project SEARCH graduate.

Westside Community School’s Project SEARCH is helping these students to bloom. They have all learned the interview process and how to deal with the day-to-day work life.

“You know, when Josh was even a junior and senior he didn’t communicate a lot,” said Jennifer Brockman, Westside coordinator of secondary education services. “He just was a very quiet individual, and to get him to crack a smile if you could do that, that was not just the win for the day but the week.”

Now Josh’s internship has landed him a full-time job at Children’s Hospital. He will take the skills he’s learned interning to keep things moving behind the scenes at the hospital.

Josh and his fellow graduates are doing more than just work, though. They are inspiring people they’ve never met.

“We’ve heard over and over from parents who are there with their own children how empowering it is and how it just gives them a sense of relief and calm when they see people with disabilities working in the hospital because it gives them hope for their own children who may have special needs, not just a current medical need,” Brockman said.

Josh says he can’t wait to get to work full time, and he’s planning to work in his favorite area of the hospital.

“Coming back to food services and maybe learning more,” Josh said.

Westside invited students from three other districts this year to participate in the program. Those superintendents were all there to help hand out diplomas.

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