United Way Supports Financial Stability for Disabled
OakLeaf Partners, A Center of Excellence at United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cleveland and a United Way funded agency, provides job training and placement for individuals with disabilities. OakLeaf is focused on helping people with disabilities find meaningful work and overcome barriers to inclusion in the community.
OakLeaf also connects high schoolers with disabilities with job opportunities through its Summer Youth Work Experience program and Project Search, a high school-to-work program.
Project SEARCH is a one-year program for high school seniors, placing students in businesses where they attend class and work in multiple departments through three unpaid internships, providing important career exploration experiences. Afterward, individuals work with an OakLeaf Job Placement Specialist to find employment within six months of graduation.
Brandon Cruz, 19, was referred to the Project SEARCH program by his transition coordinator at Max S. Hayes High School in Cleveland.
He was “a little scared” of joining the program. However, he was not alone. Brandon knew two other Hayes’ students in the program. “That boosted up [my] confidence… knowing that there were other students like me with working-class jobs now and good benefits,” he says.
Having ample support and knowing fellow students within the program made him feel more confident. As a result, he joined the program in August 2016 and is now a top student.
Brandon has completed two of his three internships at various Cleveland Clinic departments – at Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute (DDSI) and MyConsult – doing filing, mailings, logging information, printing downloads, stamping and more. He is about to start his third internship within the gastroenterology department.
“The program has shown me a lot… how to be prepared, how to always be on time, punctual and shown me a lot about team work,” Brandon adds. “Everyone has that dream job of wanting to be a fireman or policeman, but I feel like I’m best suited working behind a desk doing clerical work. I feel it’s my best strong suit… either for a hospital or anywhere in an office.”