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1374 - 1/14/2024 9:10:46 AM  

UGDSB, Wellington Catholic DSB, University of Guelph, March of Dimes Canada Partner to Launch New Project SEARCH Program

Released For Publication - January 10, 2024 

Upper Grand District School Board and Wellington Catholic District School Board students with disabilities will have the exciting opportunity to gain skill building opportunities through Project SEARCH at the University of Guelph beginning in September 2024. 

Developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996, Project SEARCH is a unique school-to-work training program for students with disabilities. Students will be immersed at the University of Guelph where they will get more than 700 hours of hands-on work experience geared to in-demand roles in the local labour market. They then learn employability skills and plan their careers with guidance from March of Dimes Canada, the local vocational rehabilitation counselors.

“The school-to-work transition is a pivotal period when a student leaves education for the labor market and is a vital process in a young person's life,” shared Lesley Smith, Executive Director/Vice President, Skill Development and Employment March of Dimes Canada. 

“As youth and young adults seek out their aspirations and economic independence, this crucial transition time can be extremely challenging, especially for individuals with disabilities. These challenges can result in an unsuccessful transition where one may end up unemployed or underemployed in low-wage jobs with minimal career prospects. Project SEARCH bridges the school-to-work transition for youth and young adults with disabilities by providing a supported pathway to the workforce, ensuring individuals of all abilities have the financial means to avoid or escape poverty and live well with disability.”

Currently, there are 750+ Project SEARCH sites worldwide. The program reports that approximately 70% of students are employed within a year of graduation. This reflects the overall success of the program for graduates and their employers.

"UGDSB is pleased to partner with the Wellington Catholic District School Board, the University of Guelph and March of Dimes Canada to bring Project SEARCH to life. We know that our joint commitment to the program will support young people with developmental disabilities find meaningful, paid employment upon completion of the skills training and internships provided during the 2024-25 school year," said Peggy Blair, UGDSB Superintendent of Education.
Bringing Project SEARCH to Guelph has been a multiyear project for the committee. Following the opportunity to take advantage of funding, leads connected with University of Guelph representatives who were inspired by the fundamentals of the program.

“Project SEARCH is a triple win for the University of Guelph.  With a strong commitment to offering experiential learning opportunities for our students as a means to gaining relevant employability skills, we have the opportunity to support students with intellectual disabilities from Guelph-Wellington to gain similar skills and experience on our campus, while also providing our UofG students with opportunities to develop valuable inclusive leadership and mentorship skills, and building a more welcoming, inclusive campus”, said Janet Doner, Manager of Campus and Community Integrated Learning in the Experiential Learning Hub, and Business Liaison for ProjectSEARCH Guelph.

To share information about Project SEARCH, UGDSB, Wellington Catholic DSB, the University of Guelph, and March of Dimes Canada will be partnering up for an Information Night.

“The Information Night is a great opportunity for candidates and their families to ask questions about details of the program," shared Jeff Mawhinney, ​special education program coordinator for Wellington Catholic DSB. “We are really excited to be bringing Project SEARCH to Guelph and appreciate the collaboration that has made it possible.”

The Information Session will be hosted on Tuesday, February 6 at University of Guelph’s University Centre in Room UC 442 at 6:30 p.m. 

We encourage you to RSVP for the event ahead of time by visiting the following link:

Following the Information Session, an Intern Application Process will begin, before the successful candidates are selected in May.


About Wellington Catholic District School Board: Wellington Catholic District School Board offers excellence in faith-based Catholic education to students and their families. The board consists of 18 elementary schools, three secondary schools and an alternative education program. We are proud to meet the educational interests of nearly 9000 students in the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington.

About Upper Grand District School Board: The Upper Grand District School Board serves more than 35,000 students through 65 elementary schools and 11 secondary schools in the City of Guelph, County of Wellington and County of Dufferin. The UGDSB covers the ancestral and traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Six Nations of the Grand River, and Saugeen Ojibway Nation Territories. Inspiring a love of learning and developing engaged, globally literate citizens is the shared purpose of our Board of Trustees, Executive Committee, and more than 4,000 dedicated education and support staff who are aided by the contributions of caring volunteers and community partners.

About University of Guelph: The University of Guelph is a comprehensive research-intensive and learner-centered university with campuses in both urban and rural communities.  Serving close to 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students, the University of Guelph is known for their excellence in the arts and sciences, and for their commitment to developing exceptional thinkers and engaged citizens.

About March of Dimes Canada: March of Dimes Canada is a leading national charity committed to championing equity, empowering ability, and creating real change that will help the more than 6 million people living with disabilities across the country unlock the richness of their lives. As a leading service provider, resource, and advocate, we’re paving the way for people living with disabilities to experience full and meaningful lives in an inclusive world.

About Project SEARCH: Project SEARCH was developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, which is still the administrative headquarters for the organization. Project SEARCH is a business-led, one-year internship program for young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Most participants are enrolled while transitioning from high school to work. The hallmark of Project SEARCH is total workplace immersion, which facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training leading to acquisition of marketable work skills. Project SEARCH's goal is to secure competitive, integrated employment for every program participant.





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