Inspiring. Warm. Eager.
These are the words Lexy Watson uses to describe her Project SEARCH intern, Sydney Moore. It’s a cold and gloomy winter’s day but this energetic gift shop duo are giggling, recalling one of the many fun moments they’ve shared working side-by-side.
“There was karaoke involved,” Sydney said laughing.
“Sydney knew more of the lyrics. Just a typical workday in the storeroom,” Lexy joked.
Sydney is a graduate of North Scott High School in Eldridge, Iowa. The 20-year old is one of seven Project SEARCH interns who are learning skills and gaining work experience in the year-long program at UnityPoint Health – Trinity Bettendorf. The international program helps people with disabilities gain employment.
Sydney is currently in her second of three, ten-week work internships. This round, she’s learning business and customer service skills in the hospital’s gift shop from Lexy, her mentor. Sydney is set to graduate from Project SEARCH in May 2017.
“Before I became a mentor, I was completely unaware of how much a person like Sydney can accomplish,” said Lexy. “I didn’t know how much I enjoyed teaching, didn’t know how much fun and rewarding it can be.”
“I used to be really shy but now I’m more powerful,” said Sydney. “To make new friends, new experiences, and new surroundings…” Sydney said smiling as she reflected on her past and her future.
Sydney is soft-spoken but her words move you. Her eyes are bright behind her glasses as she describes her future after Project SEARCH
. She recalls volunteering with her grandmother for Meals on Wheels and how that experience continues to inspire her to help others. She is passionate about the elderly and says her dream job is to become an event manager for an assisted living facility.
“Seeing the smiles on their faces when we brought them food… And Lexy with all the phone calls and planning… I want to be able to do stuff like that,” Sydney said.
“I would hire her in a heartbeat,” said Lexy. “She’s improved the experience of coming to work every day.”
From karaoke in the storeroom to organizing displays in the gift shop, Lexy says among her favorite moments are seeing Sydney work hard and succeed in doing what she loves.
“She got to do a delivery she really enjoyed. Do you remember that Sydney?” Lexy asked. “Yes!” said Sydney, smiling from ear to ear. “It was for a lady that just had surgery for cancer. She had no idea she was getting a gift and she had the biggest smile on her face and was so grateful.”
Lexy and Sydney work together five days a week. On this day, the duo are rearranging some display cases and floral arrangements in the gift shop’s cooler. From the outside looking in, it’s clear that their relationship between intern and mentor has developed into a mutual support system, a friendship that will last a lifetime.
“I was frustrated working at the cash register. Lexy was there and walked me through it. She wasn’t upset and we fixed it together,” said Sydney.
“Sydney makes every day better here at UnityPoint Health – Trinity,” said Lexy.
In addition to finding a job one day, Sydney is also excited to soon become an aunt. And what kind of aunt does Sydney hope to be?
“A cool aunt,” she proudly replied.
Project SEARCH began in 1996 at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio. In 20 years, the program has expanded to more than 400 locations throughout the United States and internationally. This is the first Project SEARCH program in the Quad Cities area. Project SEARCH at UnityPoint Health – Trinity Bettendorf is in partnership with North Scott, Bettendorf, and Pleasant Valley school districts, and local area support agencies Goodwill, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency.
Project SEARCH uses classroom instruction coupled with workplace internships to prepare individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities for competitive employment. A successful outcome for our interns is employment in an integrated setting (working alongside coworkers with or without disabilities), year-round work of 16 hours per week or more, and pay of minimum wage or higher. Project SEARCH also aligns with UnityPoint Health® - Trinity’s vision and values. Trinity was an early adopter and supporter of the Q2030 Regional Action Plan. Project SEARCH is one more example of Trinity’s commitment to the improved prosperity of the Quad Cities region.