About Project SEARCH

  • Norman’s Project SEARCH Academy will mark the end of its eighth 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.

    Emily Wilson (parent):  "We are so grateful for the incredible Project Search program and for our son's opportunity to participate. It is staffed by caring, dedicated professionals who work tirelessly getting to know each Intern and helping them attain the skills they need to meet their personal work and life goals. Our son had the opportunity to perform jobs and learn work skills hands-on in a safe, supportive environment at the lovely Embassy Suites Hotel. It was a unique opportunity to learn valuable work skills, and an experience that we would never have been able to provide for him without this program. Since beginning Project Search, our son has matured in so many important and remarkable ways. He has developed more independence at home, has a newfound confidence in his abilities, and has a keen sense of pride in the quality of his work. The skills and knowledge our son learned and developed in Project Search have opened a world of possibilities for his future we previously feared might be out of reach."

    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."