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A program geared toward showing high school seniors a path toward employment after graduation has helped one Depew student to secure a job before he even walks across the stage.

Project SEARCH, an international- and state-approved program focused on transitional education, assisted senior Robert Snyder in finding part-time employment while he learned.

The area’s chapter, the Western New York Project SEARCH Collaborative, is provided by Beechwood Continuing Care – a business that includes senior, rehabilitative and assisted-living services in Amherst – in conjunction with Erie 1 BOCES, Aspire of WNY and Summit Educational Resources.

Students, such as Snyder, intern at Beechwood, which provides a classroom and employee mentors. The learning is all done on site, and the team includes teachers, aides and a job coach. Students are taught job skills and are encouraged to form career goals.

Erin Richeal, the Project SEARCH teacher through BOCES, said the program includes three 10-week rotations. Students learn different tasks that would be consistent with an entry-level position. Snyder, for example, began working in the supply closet, working one-on-one with a mentor, organizing items and making deliveries to different departments. During his second rotation, Snyder worked in dining services with many more people. Richeal said Snyder thrived in this environment.

As Snyder interned, a position opened at Beechwood. He crafted his résumé and requested an interview. He impressed Beechwood officials so much that they asked that he be graduated from Project SEARCH early so he could be hired, said Janet Gajewski, the district’s director of special education.

“He mastered the skills,” Richeal said. “He’s now part-time employed.”

Gajewski said this is the first year the program was offered, and Depew was one of four districts to participate. Students must be in their last year of school and be between 18 and 21 years old to participate. They also must have a current Individual Education Plan and have all academic requirements for high school completed.

Gajewski said the program offers great opportunities during school and after graduation.

“It allows them schooling as well as working,” she said.

Snyder shyly accepted a certificate of accomplishment from the Depew School Board and quietly thanked everyone for their applause during Tuesday’s board meeting. His gratitude was more vocal in a video that Gajewski presented. In it, Snyder discussed his experience with Project SEARCH, saying that working at Beechwood helped him to realize his positive attributes, such as being respectful, sensitive and a “people person.”

“I was happy when I was accepted,” he said.

For general information, parents and students may call Project SEARCH Coordinator Diane Avecillas at 810-7770. For enrollment information, parents and students should contact their respective school district officials.