On the Right Path

The PathPoint Project SEARCH internship program helps adults with developmental disabilities gain job skills




As the mother of an adult son with autism spectrum disorder, Rosemarie Longan grew frustrated with the lack of employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities in the Santa Clarita Valley.  When she came across the PathPoint Project SEARCH internship program for young adults with developmental disabilities, she thought Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital would be an ideal site to provide participants with on-the-job experience that would help them enhance their employability and independent living skills.

Longan, along with PathPoint’s then-COO Marielle DeFazio, pitched the program to Henry Mayo CEO Roger E. Seaver, who “was immediately open to the idea,” she said. Last year, four interns applied and began the one-year program that combines hands-on training through worksite rotations with classroom instruction and support. The goal is to empower participants to make successful transitions to the workforce. 

“Our interns were at the hospital each weekday and rotated through Central Supply, Environmental Services, Warehouse and the Food Services department, gaining transferable job skills and confidence while touching the lives of our staff,” said Maria Strmsek, Henry Mayo’s Director of Volunteer Services. 
Before bringing the program to the hospital, Strmsek and Volunteer Supervisor April Garcia visited Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, a Project SEARCH host, and learned of its successful partnership with PathPoint. 

“As a community hospital, it’s important to help provide opportunities to those with special needs,” Strmsek said. “Project SEARCH is an adjunct after graduation from the William S. Hart High School District’s Transitional Learning Charter program, which teaches life skills to help students with developmental disabilities become more independent.” 

By the time the cohort completed the worksite rotations in September, all four interns received job offers from Sodexo, which handles food and facilities management at Henry Mayo, and the hospital then welcomed a second group of interns. Longan, who owns a Fast Frame store in Valencia, was not surprised by Project SEARCH’s success at Henry Mayo. “One reason why a hospital is a great environment is you have one setting and one location with a multitude of different skill sets needed.

“My goal was to help others with similar challenges as my son,” she added. “If it helps one person, it’s so worth it.” IYH

(Image) PathPoint graduates, from left:  Brent Gulley, Justin Gagnon, Cheryl Golovich and Dustin Engerbretsen.