Project SEARCH Intern Serves as Role Model for Program

Regina Bell, Assistant Section Chief, Division of Social Services, Economic and Family Services; Matthew Schwab, Project Search Intern; David Locklear, Deputy Director, Division of Social Services, Economic and Family Services; and Lynne Little, NC State Refugee Coordinator

Pictured left to right: Regina Bell, Assistant Section Chief, Division of Social Services, Economic and Family Services; Matthew Schwab, Project Search Intern; David Locklear, Deputy Director, Division of Social Services, Economic and Family Services; and Lynne Little, NC State Refugee Coordinator

June 26, 2019 – In a short time, Matthew Schwab has become a Project SEARCH success story for the NC Department of Health and Human Services, having secured internships at two divisions. 

Schwab graduated in May from DHHS’ Project SEARCH program, which combines classroom instruction, career exploration and relevant job-skills training with internships for students with intellectual and other disabilities.  

Project SEARCH is a nationwide initiative that aims to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities. The program also assists students with disabilities transition from school to employment through on-job training. DHHS began the program in 2016.

Schwab, who has Down Syndrome, began an internship with the Division of Social Services’ North Carolina Refugee Program in September 2018. The tasks he worked on in the Refugee Program included: confirming demographic information and adding results to spreadsheets; photographing special events in the program; and verifying service numbers for reporting purposes. Schwab also surveyed the North Carolina Refugee Service Provider agencies to gather information regarding mental health needs and training staff members. 

In November, Schwab discussed the results of the survey at the statewide Refugee Advisory Council meeting in Greensboro. The Refugee Program also used the information gathered by Schwab in a federal grant proposal to support health and emotional wellness of refugees. 

North Carolina State Refugee Coordinator Lynne Little said Schwab had a positive impact on their program. 

“Schwab’s contribution to the Refugee Program, work ethic and positive attitude will be felt long after he moves on to his next big project,” Little said. 

During his time in Project SEARCH, Schwab did three 9-week rotations for internships. He completed two internships in Refugee Services and one rotation at Medicaid. 

DHHS is not Schwab’s first foray into state government. Schwab interned at the NC General Assembly for Rep. John Bradford in 2018 as he worked on several bills related to employment and adults with intellectual disabilities. 

“It’s new for me to work for a branch of state government,” Schwab said. “I’ve been at the top, with the General Assembly, but now working with the Department of Health and Human Services, it’s my favorite department—the only department I’ve worked at, but my favorite!”

For the future, Schwab is interested in politics and state government. 

“Project SEARCH is important to me because I am not a stranger to the workforce, but I want to find more stable jobs,” he said. “I am at the age to start an independent life, so I can be a normal citizen. Back in 1997, there was not a lot of resources. Now we can have a lot more resources with the help of legislators.”

Schwab is a public speaker, advocate and ambassador for individuals with special needs. Watch videos of his speeches on his YouTube channel or on his website.
 

Author: 
Gretchen Kalar