The Landscape

Susan Rutkowski Speaks About Everything ProjectSEARCH

March 29, 2020 Naveh Eldar, Susie Rutkowski Season 1 Episode 1
The Landscape
Susan Rutkowski Speaks About Everything ProjectSEARCH
Show Notes Transcript

Susie Rutkowski, the co-founder of ProjectSEARCH speaks about the early days, growth, and changes in the internship program for individuals with an intellectual and/or developmental disability (IDD). ProjectSEARCH changes lives, businesses and communities across the United States, and around the world by bringing interns into some of the largest employers in their communities.

spk_0:   0:17
welcome to the landscape of podcast to shed light on the people programs in businesses that are changing the landscape for individuals with any type of disability. I'm your host availed our Today you will hear a conversation with Susie Bartkowski, a co founder of Project Search, which is an internship program for high school seniors who have an intellectual or developmental disability. Were instead of going into the classroom, they spend a year learning and working and solve the largest employers in their communities. The conversation starts with Susie giving us an overview of the program. Stick around after the conversation to get some additional information about Project Search.

spk_1:   0:58
Project Search isn't training immersion program for young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. So think of it as a language immersion program when you really want to learn something and you have to be immersed in that culture or in that situation or in that society or in that country. So young people with disabilities, many of them have not had good introductions and opportunities to learn about work. So this is a way for a young adults in their last year of high school or as young adults who have graduated to experience work from the inside out to be inside a major company quality company in their community and spend a seven hour day in that organization, learning not just the work but the culture, the values, the mission on the expectations, the productivity, the quality, the safety, all of that. What to wear, um, so that they can really get up to standards of working and work up to high expectations that a typical large employer in their community would have. So they, the young people, get to spend an entire year entire academic year at that host business at the same host business and get to experience three different entry level jobs with with three different managers three different sets, a co workers to try to figure out what do they want to do? What are they good at what they like and then learning those those tasks up to product hip up to productivity, quality and safety standards.

spk_0:   2:47
So I imagine that that's why has to be large businesses because there has to be 33 rotations. You're trying to teach like culture of business. So do you have a standard for how big that business needs to be,

spk_1:   3:02
We say, at that kind of the threshold that has to have 200 employees, and it has to have a variety of tasks. So when we think about like, a hospital is sword of the kind of gold standard for project search because not because it's health care but because of the wide variety of tasks that there are in a hospital. So it has everything from food service and traditional environmental service is up to prepping for surgery. Um, so entry level tasks at a hospital could still be building case cards, building on the clinical sterilization trays that goto a surgeon. And they're all done by a Nen tree level person that could learn to set that case tray in a very specific manner.

spk_0:   3:52
And so what does an ideal in turn look like?

spk_1:   3:56
Um, well, I mean, could be with Variety, so it could be a young person with autism. It could be a young person with Down syndrome. It could be a young person that has complex medical needs as well as Maybe maybe is a non reader. So we say that they have to be if they're still in high school. They have to be on an I P. They have to be on an individual education plan. Or if they're young, adult, they have tohave ah, documented disability that would qualify them for state vocational rehabilitation. So they have to have some barrier toe work. So maybe they've never had a job. Or maybe they've had several jobs but lost them. Maybe they have a new intellectual disability that, but they almost they also might have a compound ng factor, such as poverty or homelessness or mental illness. So mostly if we think about training for work. And we ask ourselves the question. Does that young person need, ah, year of internship experience and career exploration? And if we can say yes, they would benefit from that, then they would be a good candidate.

spk_0:   5:03
Now I know that you have a fidelity that goes with the program. You don't have to go over the whole fidelity, but two questions. One. When did you implement that? And what are some of the really key parts of your fidelity?

spk_1:   5:17
We've had fidelity for? Probably at least 10 years were a program that's 20 years old, but we really recognized 10 or 12 years ago that there were a lot of Project search like programs around, and we wanted to say to ourselves, What makes us different? What makes us unique? And so we have about we have exactly six core model Fidelity components, and the 1st 1 is the most important. It's that our outcome is employment. So we're different than other transition programs because what everything that feeds into our whole day has to relate back to is this activity, this lesson, this internship, this task, this this whatever the intern is doing, can we answer the question? Does this lead to a better outcome of employment? And if we can answer yes, then we should be doing it. So do our teachers take field trips? No, they might. They might go visit an employer. They might go visit on the Chamber of Commerce, But everything that every project search program should be doing should lead back to employment. So that's our first Corps model. Fidelity employment is that we want every intern to gain employment at 16 hours a week or Maur minimum wage or better. Um, the second is collaboration, so collaboration is hard. Anybody that's in any kind of relationship know that relationships mean work. So every project search program collaborates with the host business and education partner, a supported employment partner. State vocational rehab and long term support service is for people with disabilities. So that's five partners that have to work together day in and day out and ensure that the intern is getting what they need to reach the goal of employment. Um, the other really important factor is what you asked is who makes a good project Search candidate. Students have to apply again. They have to be on an I p. They have to have a documented disability. They have to be eligible for state vocational rehab. Um, and they have to be able to benefit from this intensive year of internship opportunities.

spk_0:   7:36
Full disclosure for the listeners that I am involved with Project Search at my company. And so this is something. Everything you're talking about is changing the lives of the interns, right? It's exposing them to jobs that they probably wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise. But did you also in the beginning, think about the fact that you're changing the culture of businesses that themselves?

spk_1:   8:04
Well, we did because it started at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. So Aaron Riley, who waas the emergency room director from the nursing perspective. So there's Ah, there's a physician director in a nursing director and there was a nursing director and she knew that half of our population at Cincinnati Children's our Children with disabilities. And she knew that we did a great job of treating them and healing them, but that we didn't do much beyond that. And she looked at all the training programs that Cincinnati Children's offered for doctors and nurses and physical therapists and occupational therapists and child life therapist. But there weren't any training programs for the very people that we served. And so she reached out to the school where I was the special ed director to say, What could we do to change this? And so we reached out to State V. R and some other key organizations in the Cincinnati area to form the very first program, and we hoped that it changed the culture. We we didn't know for sure. Part of the biggest challenge was expectations. So helping people realize that people with disabilities can do real work for so long if you think about the history of people with disabilities that people believe that they could be productive, but not in the same way as typical people. I mean, I mean, I'm being sarcastic, but most people would never say, Well, a person with a disability could have the same productivity rate of somebody else, so we would. We often gave people with disabilities grunt work or busywork sure to dio and that our goal was to change that. Our goal was to change that for employers. And I think that was one of the hardest things is for for managers in very important departments to say, Wow, I'm giving this really important work to a person with the developmental disability and trusting that they can get this work done so that we, as disability professionals, have to set up systems where our young people can be productive and produce quality work, because oftentimes the work that they're doing is very, very life or death, like putting together a surgical tray. You want that surgeon tohave the instruments that he or she needs, And so it's the training peace. It's the high expectations. It's finding ways that managers and mentors can feel comfortable with people with disabilities that they don't feel scared, too, worked alongside someone with a disability, and that they feel that they have the tools to teach. So it's it's teaching the managers and mentors how to train and how to mentor someone along in a job so it can be very, very rewarding. But it can also be challenging for everybody.

spk_0:   11:13
And it is absolutely one of things that I love about the program, and I have been exposed to many a program over my career in Project Search is absolutely one of my favorites. And because I understand that in order for us to make progress for individuals with disabilities in the workplace, there has to be worked on both ends. There has to be worked on the individuals themselves, getting the proper training right, which this program does. But then you also have to have employers that are willing to hire them, which this also addresses. And another component of it is you also have its part of this, a recommendation of having a business advisory committee, which is where the host business in my case, it would be Blue Cross with Shell of Tennessee reach out to other businesses in the community to bring them in. So can you talk a little bit about what is the what is the purpose of reaching out to other businesses in the community if you're hosting in turns?

spk_1:   12:15
So we're looking for those other employers in the community that would have jobs that would require similar skill sets to the interns are are learning so wouldn't have to be insurance to insurance, But it would have to be what air this interns learning and what do the other employers need and do those matchup. So anybody? That's so if we're learning clerical admin spread she that kind of work, Who else does that? If they're learning stocking materials management, logistics, Who else does that? And we're not asking the Business advisory council to hire everyone. What we're asking them is, Can you help us create employment opportunities? Can you reach out to someone that, you know that might help create an opportunity not even to hire, But can you give them an interview? Can you help us find ways for employers to say yes, or can you do things like critique their resumes? Can you help us create maybe a visual resume or, ah, video resume. Can you do mock interviews? Can you give us? Sometimes we get too close to the interns, if you know what I mean. We might allow things because we see them every day, whereas another employer might say, Oh, this young person needs to dress up more or have better articulation skills, Or I know how to talk about their skills to an employer or to help them get that good job. So we need those business local businesses to give us good advice, even on what we should be teaching. If we're teaching old skills that are necessary, we need to know that. So So it's advice, opportunities, opening doors. All of those things would be things that we need local employers to help us with.

spk_0:   14:19
So one project search site right one business, which is changing internally, right? Because, like I said, we've been our program has been up. This is our second year now, and, um, in the first year, we had seven in turn departments, you know, internships available. And then the other departments saw how wonderful they were doing, and so they wanted. So now we're up to 17 right? So you see this change within the company, and now we're also bringing in outside companies and so is impacting greater Chattanooga. Like I said, when I When I sit back and think about the program, I'm just like I I wonder, like, do you understand how big of an impact something that you co created is having on society in general?

spk_1:   15:10
It's It's really mind boggling. It kind of does, like, challenge your brain every day, air in and I pinch ourselves. Um, we just fill out an application to go to India and bridge that at an international conference, just knowing that we have 614 sites as of today and in 10 different countries. But I think for us, when we first started, it was schools that would call us to say we want of new projects, which program, and then it was community rehabilitation programs That said, We want one. And now it's cos So Blue Cross contacted us. We didn't contact them. You contacted up, right? Um, now we have the Dow chemical company calling us. I was just in Louisiana last month training a new Dow site. We have five Dow chemical sites in different states and one in Wales. So when you have companies like the Dow Chemical Company and Blue Cross Blue Shield and famous hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic, and I mean it's it's very humbling to know that those companies want to diversify and have people with disabilities in their ranks. And that's that so refreshing, but also humbling to think about because of the Dow Chemical, like a global company like that is right, eyes reaching out. Then it's It's super exciting. Let's

spk_0:   16:45
go back then. So right now we see what you're in, 10 different countries. You're 47 states. Is that correct? 48 states, um, several sites in all of the States. We'll get into some of the numbers of the later, but is it began in 1996 right at the Children's Hospital in Cincinnati. Um, hi, I am just really fascinated to know when Aaron came to you. How did you even have the audacity, coats of vocational rehabilitation and all these entities that you mentioned earlier to pitch this ideal that nobody had ever heard off?

spk_1:   17:28
So the first year we struggled because we tried just the what? What people call the place in train model white. We put somebody in a job and game a little bit of training and hope it worked and it worked. Okay, but what we really found quickly is that just like you and I, people need training for a job and you can't just put somebody in a job and se na ve good luck. And so we thought about well, we were. Then we kind of combined what we do in career tech with training and what nurses do. So, Aaron, new nursing and I knew education. And so we kind of combined that stuff together to say Well, nurses go through an intensive internship experience in different areas, and students with disabilities need immersed work. They can't. They don't do well in a lab environment. So can we bring them to the hospital? Can we create internships at the hospital? So we we took both of our experiences and blended them together. Our school had worked with state vocational rehab. Anyway, we were a car for accredited school and training organization. So we knew some local V R people on dso We brought some local people together and it was both positive and negative. It was negative in the fact that there were some jealousy with other community rehab organizations. It's like, Well, why do you get to work with Children's Hospital? We want to work with Children's Hospital and Children's was very adamant that they had the right to choose the partners that they wanted and that they felt comfortable with. But there was some given take for a while, but and that once we kind of I thought about what that internship experience needed to look like from the hospitals and and from the student and, um, we we it was pretty, I would say easy, but it was easier than to put the program together. And Aaron had so many contacts at the hospital. She was a senior director. She knew lots and lots of people and from the rehab, and I knew more people like in the community. So she reached out to so many departments of the hospital. Not everybody said yes, but so many people said yes. And, um, we were really ableto have some fairly prestigious departments that wanted to work with us and, um that I think a lot of people from a personal point of view either had a child or a relative, or maybe a patient, that they knew with the disability that wanted to say yes. And then we actually are first class. Our first project Search cohorts start in the 98 99 school year. So for about a year and 1/2 we tried the other way. And then finally, kind of. It took us about a year to reach out to different departments and put together a curriculum and and all of that and recruit students. Um, and so it was. It was that 98 99 school year when we first started the way it kind of looks. Now it's it looks different. We didn't have a dedicated classroom the first year, and we used the third shift break room because they were off. And so we were creative. But, um, it's it's interesting. A couple of the students from our very first year are still at the hospital working, so they've been there 20 years. So some of them are starting to talk about retirement, which is phenomenal, right? Like who would have ever thought we'd be talking about 401 k plans, and you know all of that crazy stuff. But, um, So we reached out to state vocal rehab in Ohio and talked about a common definition of employment. That was one of our first goals is to say, if we reach our outcome, you measure employment this way in the school, measures it this way. What? How can we come to a common definition so that our data look similar and that our outcomes are similar and that we're all happy at the end of the year? What's gonna What's gonna be our measure of success we needed We needed that, um, we actually we had to do a lot of work with the hospital to make sure that students were safe. Students were productive. Students produced quality work that it wasn't just, you know, a little bit of work here and there that they were really looking at entry level kinds of jobs. Um, that was, I think, difficult for everybody because I think a lot of people thought, Well, I'm just gonna give him a little bit of this work or that work was like, No, we have to look it, you know, what are some competitive tasks that they have to learn? They were gonna be doing the full job, but they were going to be learning competitive tasks so that that took a lot of work on all of our parts to think about what that would look like. And then just to get people's head wrapped around that you have the intern for about 25 hours a week. So what does that look like? If you have a nurse, a nursing student in your department, it would be similar, but they wouldn't. You know, it would be a young person with a disability, not a nurse. So again, just just different. Expect high expectations, but different and so and giving them training. And then our first foray out of the hospital was to a bank to 5th 3rd Bank in Cincinnati, and that was different again because it wasn't hospital work. It was kind of clerical admin work.

spk_0:   23:05
So how did that happen? Did you approach the bank that that somebody hear about it and say, I want to be involved? How did

spk_1:   23:12
bank approached us? So we had We had some students working at another bank in Cincinnati just doing some work. And, um, that bank got bought. Bye. Another bank, as banks do. And a lot of the people at the original bank moved to 5th 3rd and 5th 3rd said, Oh, we had this great experience with students with disabilities. Let's reach out. And so, um

spk_0:   23:42
so they were graduates of the project search at the hospital that were working at the bank?

spk_1:   23:48
No, we were We were trying some other. We were doing some other place mentioned. And so we said, And then Aaron and I met with, um leadership at 5th 3rd and said, If we're going to do this together, here's Here's our expectations. You have to have internships. You have toe, you know, have quality internships. You have to be flexible. And, you know, except all the things that we needed and they were so gracious and excited and accepting and build a beautiful classroom and, um helped reach out to lots of departments. And now we actually have three sites at the third want to in Cincinnati and one in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

spk_0:   24:28
When that put the seed that we can spread this like this can go. I know you didn't think International at the time, but you were like this conspired to other states. Maybe

spk_1:   24:38
well, at first we thought other industry sectors because we were only in health care and we had done another couple hospitals in Ohio. And once we did 5th 3rd we thought, Well, wow, if if this could work in a bank and it can work in a hospital, well, it could work in any industry sector that's large enough. Tau host 8 to 12 interns every year and have 8 to 10 internship opportunities every year. Because the whole thought is that every intern gets their own department, they don't move as a group. They move throughout the organization on their own, with with staffing support. And I think that's the other thing that makes us unique from other transition work programs is that we have embedded staff at every host business that we're in. So if you think about 614 sites, we also have 614 project search instructors to skills trainers at every site. We don't hire them. The local teams do, but we want businesses to know that we're not just going to drop off these interns we're gonna give you embedded the Merced staff that will be there all day, every day, working with the interns, but also working with your staff. Um, and that, I think, makes us somewhat unique that we are assisting our young people to be independent because we're not one on one, but at the same time providing the support that they need to be independent workers.

spk_0:   26:09
And what was the first? Do you remember the first state did you went into,

spk_1:   26:13
um, well, Tennessee, Georgia, Tennessee and Georgia? Um, Vanderbilt started a program about 15 years ago that wasn't exactly like Project Search, but now is a project search site and Emery Midtown Hospital in Atlanta and Seattle. Children's in Seattle were our first out of Ohio replications.

spk_0:   26:43
Okay. And then and then what was the first and and how did it happen? The first ah, other country that became involved in showed interest.

spk_1:   26:53
Well, um, England. We got an inquiry from an organization in England called Employ that it actually started after World War Two that was looking at ways to re introduce veterans back into work, and then they kind of nuanced into people with disabilities and They had a lot of workshops or kind of stand alone institutions that were expensive. And the UK government said, You've got to find ways to reintegrate these people into regular work. Not all these stand alone's and so they reach. They did a lot of research and I said, Well, what is some of the better transition programs out there? And they contacted us and they said, We've heard great things about project Search. We want you to come and teach us how you do this. And so we went to the UK and we had a contract with Her Majesty's government, which was pretty fun and started off 10 or 15 programs in the U. K. And now we have Oh, I don't know, 60 60 plus programs in the U. K and beyond. Homer. So So yeah, it was pretty exciting to go to in 2007. I think was our first time to go to the UK.

spk_0:   28:15
OK, yeah. And so I'm looking to some of the numbers from last year, right? Just to put things in perspective. So it says. Last year you had 3733 enrolled internationally, right of course, 3511 completed the program and 2357 were employed. And then you have to separate definitions of employment. So first of all, we have to just talk about we're talking again to put things in perspective. We're talking about individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities where 77.3% of them are working like this point in time. You're getting close, too close to the general population and for those who aren't from the disability community, the national average for competitive employment, which is what you're talking about. At least minimum wage in the community completely integrated is closer to 13 or 14% and you have a program that is producing 77.3%. So what are your two different definitions of employment?

spk_1:   29:25
So the 77% right now is people with any kind of a job, so that's still competitive. I mean, still making minimum wage, but under 16 hours, and then the 67% is 16 hours a week or more minimum wage or better in integrated environment and non seasonal. So somebody that just didn't get a job for the holidays or the summer because when we first started, we'd get a lot of young people, especially who got a summer job. And we count that without realizing that, Oh, that job was going to go away,

spk_0:   30:05
you know, written two or

spk_1:   30:07
three months. So that's why the discrepancy between the two data points is the 77% is students that got any any kind of employment. But then the 67% is that more rigorous definition of 16 16 hours a week or Maur minimum wage or better in an integrated environment and nonseasonal? Um, so right now our average hours a week are 25 if you take everybody and over $10 an hour if you take everybody. And we we think that hourly wage will go way up this year just because with Amazon at a minimum of $15 an hour, everybody's kind of jumping to that sure as a minimum. So I think that all I think that minimum hourly wage will will go way up, but we really want is that weekly hourly amount to go up because most of us couldn't survive on 16 hours a week of work

spk_0:   31:06
and another thing. I just want to throw this in there because we're about to jump into a completely different area is you know, I've heard you speak several times, and it's extremely important. The employers No, that this program is not looking for charity in any way. You want them to hire people who are going to benefit the company. So was that always your vision from the very beginning?

spk_1:   31:32
Always, always, always was never a philanthropic because you could do that. Lots of other ways. And there are already workshops and all of those kinds of employment opportunities if if you didn't need it to be competitive. We have always said we want the work to be complex and systematic, and we want the students to learn competitive, marketable, transferable skills. Um, and I think employers like that because it's it's what we all need. And especially in this day and age, when unemployment is so low, um, that we have to be able to give employers somebody who is going to do the work in a way that meets expectations. So when we talk about setting up internships, we have to make sure that one of the first things we talked every manager about is what, what are typical entry level tasks. And then what are your expectations of those tasks? So I always think of a table with four columns. What's the task? What's the quality that you are expecting? What's the productivity rate of another typical entry level employees? And then what are any safety concerns or any kind of side notes that you would think about when you have that task, such as in a hospital? We always have to think about patients are first patients and families air first. So are they. Our intern's gonna interact with patients and families. What do they have to do to be socially appropriate, creating all of those kinds of things? Where is that? A company like the third. It's confidential information. How do I keep the information that I'm touching? Entering, scanning, confidential. So those air, those kind of cultural norms, cultural notes that fetch have to think about. So we want employer every of our employers, but also everyone of our managers to know that that's at our four front, too. Hospitality has been a big industry lately that we've been in and here in China sea were in places like the wilderness in the Smokies in the severe county area, two very prestigious hotels in Memphis Hotel in Murphy's Burrow, the Embassy Suites Embassy Suites in Nashville. So when we think about the culture of hospitality, the first thing is guess right, How do we interact with our guests? Keep our guests happy, and then the second probably is safety and cleanliness. So how do we infuse that into every single internship? Because if we're not safe, clean and hospitable, well, the hotel doesn't need you. So we have to think about what every what's important to every industry sector. How can we work that into every single internship that we have?

spk_0:   34:30
So we talked about changing culture from within. So, of course, our leadership decided this is something we want to dedicate ourselves to our excited to bring these interns on board. But then and then the leaders of different departments volunteer their department, but then the you know, the boots on the ground. Individuals were a little bit hesitant, some of them some were very excited. And so we did a training on working with individuals of disability in the relief that comes over them when they are taught, you are to treat them like everybody else, like you're not too baby them. You're not to talk to them like their Children. If they do something wrong, you're supposed to let them know they did something wrong. So those expectations to know that this is a true internship with high expectations it is not charity, and they just felt so much better about the whole program, like just walking out of that training. They just felt better. So I just think it's important for people to know that this, like you, said, this is not something that you know we're looking for a handout or something. These air hard working, extremely talented and gifted individuals,

spk_1:   35:43
right? One of our challenges, sometimes, especially at Children's hospitals, even though they're fabulous organizations. Sometimes the interns that come in have been patients there, and so some of the doctors and nurses know them as patients, and they start to relate to them as patients instead of as interns. And so we have to shift that mindset. That little na ve isn't little knobbing anymore. Now he's grown up. Nava, who wants to go to work so We have to treat him as if he wants to go to work. So how, and knowing that it's hard for them to flip those expectations sometimes and they've admitted that. And that's so when it's one of the that's the benefit of going to someplace like Blue Cross Blue Shield because they don't know any of the interns. They don't have those preconceived notions of knowing that as a maybe a young child or a young patient. But yes, we want every department to have the same high expectations that you would of the new employee walking in the door. If they can do that, that's half the battle right there.

spk_0:   36:49
Yes, absolutely. So I want to finish up. We're talking about you a little bit. For those of you who have never met Susie, she's full of energy and personality and passion and amazingly articulate. And I would like to know what kind of a person you were as a young woman, like let's say, college age, where you like a person was out there trying to change the world where you who was young,

spk_1:   37:18
60. That's a great question. No one's ever asked me that before. I think one of the defining parts of my young career. Actually, in high school I wanted to join a club at my school that did service to the community. And there was an announcement on the P A system that if you wanted to join this program, you could come toe Mr Truck Sal's room. So I went up there and he said, What are you doing here? And I said, I want to join key club and he goes, Well, you can't And I said, Well, why not? He goes, You're a girl and I'm like, Wow, yeah, he goes, Well, this club's only for boys. I said, Really, you're only gonna let boys do community service and not girls, He said, Well, it's it's prestigious. It's this. It's that it's tradition. I said Wow. Okay, So I started my own, um, service club called. It was called Skip Student Community Involvement program, huh? And pretty soon we had more members than his damn key club. So there you go.

spk_0:   38:25
And it was a mixed club. Of course you didn't create like, a female version.

spk_1:   38:32
No, no, no. You have to have guys thio fun.

spk_0:   38:35
That is amazing. And so And then what drew you to this population, or when did you start working with individuals with a disability?

spk_1:   38:43
Well, actually, that same club, um, we started working at a state institution in Dayton, Ohio. Um, who All of the young people were wards of the court. Um, and they were very seriously disabled. Um, and that I couldn't move. I couldn't begin to tell you stories of the young people. And keep in mind, please, Please keep in mind. This was a long time ago in the 19 seventies, um, and but it made you shudder to think about some of the conditions, Um, and the fact that they had nobody, they were wards of the court that they I would go on Saturdays. And you think, Well, surely mom or Dad's gonna visit today, or surely a grandma or Grandpa is going to come. But they had no one. No one ever came to visit. No one ever came to feed them. So I had always wanted to be a teacher, but now the focus changed. It's like Well, now I have tell people disabilities because they had nobody. At least this population had nobody. Um, and So then I went into Special Ed.

spk_0:   39:59
That's a great story.

spk_1:   40:01
I've never been asked that story before, and I don't think I've ever told anybody that

spk_0:   40:06
both of those we've heard so far. Great. Um, you travel a lot. Obviously. You travel like you'd give technical support all over state all over the country. It's hard work. And I've seen, you know, there are times where all of us are frustrated in any of our job. So what do you do to decompress?

spk_1:   40:28
Um, I exercise. Um, I I love toe like get outside, um, and walk or run or are inside or wherever. You have to make your own adventures when you travel, because most of the time you're traveling by yourself And for an extra vert like me you need you need some outlets on. And you can't just wallow in the fact that you're by yourself all the time. So you have to get out, get out and see the thing. I'll tell you a quick story. I was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in January 1 year. It was cold, cold, cold. They just had a lot of snow. And I've never been to Sioux falls before and I was by myself. And so I went to the front desk of the hotel and said, Where can I take a run that safe? And she said, You know, you're right By the falls on I said, What do you mean? The falls? And she goes, You're in Sioux Falls On I went. I've never been here Where the false one out of the hotel turn left. You'll find him in about half a mile in like okay. And they were beautiful because they were all frozen and there were all kinds of people. They're walking around, and it was absolutely gorgeous. But I never would have done that if I hadn't asked the very nice person at the front death.

spk_0:   41:51
And I commend your dedication to running out in cold weather because I would have been Where's the closest treadmill, Norm? Um, so a few silly questions. Favorite vacation.

spk_1:   42:04
Oh, wow, New Zealand,

spk_0:   42:07
New Zealand. Oh, I hear it's absolutely like the Garden of Eden

spk_1:   42:12
picture Perfect. Every turn is beautiful. People are nice, pretty progressive, very integrated, very excited about people with disabilities. Um, and it's gorgeous,

spk_0:   42:29
and you have a favorite book or movie,

spk_1:   42:34
The Poisonwood Bible was one of my favorite books of all time. It's about a It's about the 19 sixties, and a Southern Baptist minister takes his family in Africa on a mission trip and just kind of what happens to them, told told from the Children's perspective. It's really fascinating.

spk_0:   42:58
And the last one, um, you are in front of people a lot. I have met you, I don't know five times. And when you see somebody in a setting like a training or even going out to dinner after the training, you have a sense that you know them, even though you don't weigh. Have the Southern, like, literally probably a couple 1000 people across this world that are like I know Susie. But what is something that will surprise us about you? I

spk_1:   43:24
have three grandchildren that I love.

spk_0:   43:26
Oh, I did not know that. Are they in Ohio?

spk_1:   43:29
No tour in Asheville, and one is in a little town in Michigan called Luna Pier.

spk_0:   43:34
Okay, well, thank you very much. First of all, thank you for everything that you do. Thank you for you, Um, and Aaron's brilliant minds for coming up with this and having, as I said, the audacity to follow through with it. And and I'm sure there were some bumps in the road and people who turn their noses up. But you guys kept pushing. And now now you're literally thousands of people every year are going through this program that you develop, so I just want to thank you for taking the time.

spk_1:   44:05
Thanks. This has been lots of fun. Actually, this is This is great.

spk_0:   44:09
Oh, good, go enjoy some. It should be noted that there is an adult version of projects Search for individuals already out of high school. If you are interested in establishing an internship site like additional information, please visit their website at Project Search that us. That's project search all one word dot us. Thank you for listening and hope you tune into the next episode where I'll be speaking. Toe Emma Dillard, a speaker and peer advocate who discusses living with the dual diagnosis of major depression and alcohol addiction. We'll see you then