About Project SEARCH

  • Norman’s Project SEARCH Academy will mark the end of its seventh year with the graduation of four students. The program, which aims to provide integrated and competitive employment opportunities for students with disabilities, provides workplace training through non-paid internships for students between 18 and 21 years of age. Forty students have completed the program since its inception in 2015.


    Each student completes three, 10-week internships in areas such as banquet service, housekeeping, laundry, maintenance, food/beverage outlets and culinary services. Students learn transferable job skills for future employment and also participate in hour-long sessions focused on teamwork, communication, interviewing, resume writing, financial management, and health.


    Eileen Swiderski (parent):  "Our daughter attended Project SEARCH and thoroughly enjoyed attending this program every day. She received daily instruction and gained both knowledge and skills while receiving hands-on experience. In addition to those skills, we have seen growth in her maturity and independence. She attained the goal of this experience by accepting a full-time employment position. We are very grateful that our daughter was accepted into this exceptional program."

    The program is made possible through a unique partnership between Norman Public Schools, Embassy Suites by Hilton Norman, OU National Center for Disability Education and Training, the Department of Rehabilitation Services, and Dale Rogers Training Center.

    The hospitality industry offers a wide variety of occupations within one building and students leave with a wide range of job skills and experience. At the conclusion of the program, students have completed high school and are often successful at securing sustainable employment.

    Sara Newsome (instructor):  "We are incredibly grateful for our partnership with Embassy Suites by Hilton. They are a wonderful host business and truly care about the success of this program. Project SEARCH has provided students and families an impactful experience by providing instruction in self-advocacy, integrity, and responsibility all while mastering vocational tasks around the hotel. Our goal is to help our interns achieve their maximum potential."