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Project Search program helps students with disabilities to support themselves

By Arielle Argel

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    MOANALUA, Hawaii (KITV) — Justice Routon is a former student of Project Search, a program that helps young adults with disabilities get into the workforce. Routon’s journey into his career was not an easy one.

“I still had to speak up for myself for what support I need. In some circumstances, there will be times I will not be able to process,” said Routon.

Routon said learning to advocate for himself was one of the biggest challenges he faced. That was one of the many skills he learned from the program.

“Project Search has helped me not only gain transferable skills, but they also helped me open my eyes on what I would like to do further than just working at a job,” said Routon. “They helped me realize that when I was a child I actually wanted to go to college so right now I am currently at Leeward Community College in Pearl City.”

Routon said he wants to use his job as a stepping stone to eventually work in counseling or animations.

Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center is the only host business of project search. Routon started as an intern there with the program, which eventually led to him getting his job.

“We want to provide students with disabilities in our community an opportunity. He was able to succeed in the program and now he’s part of our family here and able to earn a livable wage. It feels great,” said Andrew Giles, the COO of Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center.

Routon works in the pediatrics center. He helps with cleaning the center for patients and medical staff. Routon said Project Search was a big part of helping him land the job.

Reggie Dela Cruz, an instructor for Project Search said he hopes more schools and host businesses will join the program.

“Students when they leave high school they’re not dependent on a state funded program. Instead they are contributors to society. To me it’s a no brainer on why programs shouldn’t be at all schools, at all districts across the state. We need the business sector to also support and get involved,” said Dela Cruz.

Dela Cruz added if more businesses get involved, his students will have more opportunities to explore different career fields.

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