**Contributed story from provider Albertina Kerr
Austin Harris, 25, came into services with Albertina Kerr in 2015. At the time, he was working as a bottle room clerk. He was unhappy with this employment. Austin, who lives in Forest Grove, decided to take a leap of faith by beginning a new program in the state of Oregon called Project SEARCH.
Project SEARCH is an internship program for young adults who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities that teaches real-life job skills. The goal for Project SEARCH is employment either through the host business, or by using the skills gained from the program. The host business for the Project SEARCH site that Austin attended was Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro, Ore. (Three additional Project SEARCH sites are launching in Oregon in 2016). The Kaiser Westside Project SEARCH site is a business-led partnership with community agencies including Albertina Kerr, Washington County Developmental Disabilities Program and Vocational Rehabilitation (VR).
Before attending Project SEARCH, Austin's ideal job was working in a kitchen. To help gain the required skills needed for this position, the Project SEARCH team placed him in the kitchen at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center for one of his job rotations. In this role, he learned how to do dishes, put together orders for patients, bus tables, and handle the cash register.
After Austin graduated from Project SEARCH, he began applying for jobs with the assistance of one of Albertina Kerr's job developers. One of the jobs Austin applied for was for a dishwashing position with the company Eurest, which runs the cafeteria located on the Intel campus in Hillsboro. After his interviewing process, Mike Radford of Eurest was so impressed by Austin that he hired him to work in the cafeteria full time.
While working in the café at Intel, Austin was paired with a job coach. In the beginning, Austin received job coaching for every shift he had. As Austin began advancing in his skills in the kitchen, he began his journey of being independent and the job coaching slowly faded.
After working at Intel for approximately five months, Austin currently works 37.5 hours per week and makes $10.71 per hour. He has decided he wants to transition to no longer receiving Social Security benefits (or long term coaching supports offered through this benefit).
While this transition is still in process, the staff at Albertina Kerr and Project SEARCH team hope and wish for Austin that he becomes completely independent. It has been a joy for them to witness Austin's growth and to see the person and employee he has become with the support of both the Project SEARCH program and his job coach.
Austin was supported in his career goals by job developer Somerset Stevens and job coach McKenna Davis, as well as VR counselor Karen Burch and his service coordinator Jane Glancy of the Washington County Community Developmental Disability Program.