Jul 6, 2020

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island recognizes Project SEARCH graduates

2019-2020 Project SEARCH class were recognized during a virtual graduation ceremony

PROVIDENCE, RI (July 6, 2020) – Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) recently held a virtual graduation ceremony for its 2019-2020 Project SEARCH class graduates. The Project SEARCH Transition-to-Work Program is a unique, business-led, one-year employment preparation program that takes place entirely at the workplace and supports people living with developmental disabilities to prepare for competitive employment.

Five years ago, BCBSRI became the first Project SEARCH program site in the U.S. that was not hosted within a hospital or a hotel.

Project SEARCH’s primary objective is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities. At BCBSRI, Project SEARCH interns from the Cranston school district learn on-the-job skills and gain real-life work experience during their rotations in service areas across the company. Many of BCBSRI’s interns have secured part- and full-time work after graduating.

As Rhode Island’s second site to participate in Project SEARCH, BCBSRI works in partnership with Cranston Schools, Perspectives Corporation and the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

BCBSRI’s three Project SEARCH interns this year – Andrew Balasco, Andrew Croce and Ian Cousineau – were all honored and received their diplomas at a virtual ceremony. The interns worked in a number of areas including the Blue Bistro Café, office services, and strategic sourcing and vendor management. Graduate Andrew Balasco was offered a position as a cashier at the Blue Bistro once it reopens.

The virtual ceremony featured remarks from Cranston Public Schools special education teacher Kelly Starliper-Morris and job coach Donna McKenna, who spearheaded the program and provided day-to-day support for the interns. The ceremony featured congratulatory messages from BCBSRI President and CEO Kim Keck; representatives from the Cranston School Department; Project SEARCH co-founders Erin Riehle and Susie Rutkowski; program partners at the Office of Rehabilitation Services; the graduates’ work supervisors; as well as special appearances and words of encouragement from 2019 Project SEARCH graduates Thomas Marcello and Nikolas Simijis, who are both currently employed.                                                                                   

To learn more about Project SEARCH, visit www.projectsearch.us.

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