It was a great honor to close the Project SEARCH international Conference by interviewing these two thriving and charming graduates of the program. The interview was recorded at West Tennessee Healthcare, which is a hospital in Jackson, TN. As you'll hear in the interview, David currently works at Starbucks at the hospital, and David is a surgical sterilization technician. There were a handful of people watching us record live and almost 600 others virtually from different countries, although over 1000 attended some part of the conference. We recorded via Zoom and therefore I will also be posting the video recording on all social media outlets, as well as on YouTube; and my favorite part of the recording is we have American Sign Language translators throughout. Of course I will add a link to the video below.
Susie Rutkowski is the co-founder of Project SEARCH and gave an outstanding interview early in season one of my podcast, which covers the history of the program, her motivation, and some stories into her early life, which molded her into the force she's become. It is my 2nd most downloaded episode and I'll add the link to that below as well.
Zoom Recording of This Interview
Interview with Project SEARCH Co-Founder Susie Rutkowski
Project SEARCH Homepage
Links for The Landscape Pages
The Landscape FB Page
The Landscape Instagram Page
The Landscape LinkedIn
Naveh Eldar 0:00
The following episode was recorded live at West Tennessee health care as the closing session for the Project SEARCH international conference. If you'd like to see the video, which also has a sign language interpreter throughout the recording, then find the link in the episode description. And I will also post it on all my social media pages.
Welcome to the landscape, a podcast on people programs or businesses that are changing the landscape for individuals with any type of disability. I'm your host, Naveh Eldar, and I am very excited to be coming to you from West Tennessee healthcare, which is in Jackson, Tennessee. And I have the honor of being part of the closing session of the Project SEARCH international conference. So that is amazing. And thank you for inviting me. Now Project SEARCH is an internship program for high school students with significant disabilities who want to work, and they are in their last year of high school. And so instead of going into the school, they will go into large business in the community. And we'll talk a little bit about what their day looks like when we talk to these two graduates right here. And then they do internships with that large company, that you know, the whole purpose is to find meaningful employment, good paying jobs in a higher level of employment. That is, let's be honest, typically seen in the disability community. There is an adult version of the program. Although most of the programs are for high school students, I have a fantastic episode from season one with Suzy rutkoski, who is a co founder of the program. It is my number two most downloaded episode ever. And maybe after everybody the conference listens to it, it'll be number one. So let's go ahead and get started. So today, I'll be interviewing two graduates of the program, David and Caleb boo back. And they're not only brothers, but for those of you who are listening and not watching. They are identical twins. And right after this interview, they're going to be headed back to work. And I know again, if you're listening through the podcast, they are currently wearing their uniforms right now looking dashing and better than me for sure. So why don't we go ahead and get started with them. And let's introduce yourselves and tell us what you do here at the hospital. And we will start with David.
Unknown Speaker 2:37
Those My name is David bootpack. I am 23 years old. I work at Starbucks here at West Tennessee healthcare Jackson general County Hospital.
Naveh Eldar 2:46
And what do you do?
David Buback 2:48
I am a shift leader at Starbucks I make sure that drinks are being made that customers are satisfied with the Starbucks experience. I also keep things stocked up on their loved ones go to stock man, you know, I try to make every day an awesome day because some people come in and like are having bad days or maybe rough days and and so what I try to do at Starbucks, I try to make their day for every customer who comes in to Starbucks, and awesome day. And wherever that means I'm just wishing, wishing them an awesome day. Or even maybe even buying someone a cup of coffee if they're just like, downright unhappy, you know,
Naveh Eldar 3:33
amazing. And I know that you like you. You know, David has said, you know, a good day, everybody can say a good day, but an awesome day. That's next level right?
Caleb Buback 3:42
Above and Beyond above and beyond. Caleb. Hello, my name's Caleb Ryback. I am 23 years old. And I work I also work here at West Coast self care Jackson, Madison County General Hospital. And what I do is I am a now certified sterile processing tech. And what I do is, of course you all know what surgery is. Well after the surgery is done. All the medical devices and surgical instrumentation that they used for that surgery comes down to this guy and I am cleaning those surgical instruments and I'm getting them ready for further processing and for that next person who may be have surgery.
Naveh Eldar 4:35
So I'm not gonna gloss over the fact that you really emphasize the word certified. What does that mean? And why is it a big deal?
Caleb Buback 4:45
Well, in my department cert certification is mandatory. Most people have to get there about about two years but the kindness of my supervisors and everybody else they gave me a little Little bit, a little bit more of a push a little extra time to do it. And thankfully, just like everybody else, I got their certification shows that you can do the job. And that you can do it well.
Naveh Eldar 5:15
And you got some supports and studying for that certifications I write because I believe you took it once. And you didn't pass it. You had to take it again. Is that correct?
Caleb Buback 5:23
Yes, actually, I've taken this a third time taken and then passed.
Naveh Eldar 5:28
All right, but congratulations. That's amazing. Now, I want to go back to the beginning, your graduates of Project SEARCH you've been on for a couple years now. You've been working for a couple years now. But how did you even hear about project started? How did you even get into
Caleb Buback 5:41
Project SEARCH? Before I worked here, we didn't even know about Project SEARCH, it was like a ghost at the time. We were just your regular boys at home living under the roof and nothing to do really. Um, so our parents, they tried to find kind of stuff to do, and help us get it out a little bit more. There was just one thing that we did was we went to this local Methodist Church for fellowship. And I remember going to this fellowship at this Methodist Church one time and had to go into almost like a prom. Oh, most people dancing, music and everything. But there's just this one older lady there, who is nobody would answer for. I can't, I found that kind of odd mean that we're all people, we we all have disabilities, we were all different. But then all we can were the same. I said, Hey, I'm gonna go dance, that lady just went and nobody else would undergo dance for that lady. And I got to dance on her. She didn't know the steps, really. So I sort of moved her along a little bit. And then suddenly, people started to notice. And I didn't know it. But this lady who I guess she was the lady's caregiver at the time, she took an interest in me. And that my brother, and I mean, like, she was like, oh, my goodness, I these guys will work great for product search. I was like, What is Project Search. And I was like, she, she got on the phone. And she called a person with the school system to talk about hate getting these two guys into Project Search. And from then on, we got into a program called proc search the hospital, which I never knew I would do that.
Naveh Eldar 7:47
That is an amazing that is an amazing story that is so funny. And also kind of you to dance with that young lady. She's probably my age, I call her an older lady. So let's not talk about age, my friend or we might just number is just a number, right? That is a great story. And who knew, like who knew this would lead to that, like life is just weird. Yeah, it was sort of a god a God thing. You know, right. So I have a curiosity question. You two are very close. Obviously, identical twins are twins. Not always. There's always a little bit of fighting and a whole lot of love. What would you have done? If your brother hadn't gotten in? What if only you got in to the Project SEARCH? That's just I'm just curious. And I'm gonna start with David.
David Buback 8:33
Well, if my brother didn't get into Project SEARCH, I probably would have been like, I probably would have felt bad for him. I mean, we've been through a lot together. And I would have just probably tried to convince the people Hey, he's just as good a candidate as me, I would try to I would have tried to convince them, hey, we both need to get online because you know, there's a connection, we have this bond, you know, and we could do so much together. Like it's like a yin and a yang. You know, you can't do one without the other
Naveh Eldar 9:08
nice. Kayla, Kayla, like, just how to just let them know.
Caleb Buback 9:14
Well, yeah. I don't know. At that point in time, what I would do with my brother, I mean, from day one, even as babies we came up together, we did everything together with it, and we just have this connection. And I would tell them, you know, could you fill in one more slot for this guy? I mean, I see so much potential here for the both of us. I mean, even all our past teachers have seen it from day one from kindergarten all the way through high school. It's all singer they all see what we can do. And I'm pretty sure if you hire both of us You can see that extreme reaction right
Naveh Eldar 10:03
here. I love how you both advocate for each other.
David Buback 10:06
Yes. And, you know, people have also said, God's got a plan for both these two, there's something special in store. So for if there if there was an incident where one of us was able to go, I think that would have been a problem just because we believe that there was something special in store like something special, we are meant to do something to share with the world and without, in our community, something special we were going to do to inspire people.
Naveh Eldar 10:40
And so now you meet this lady at the church, she tells you about Project SEARCH, he knew nothing about Project SEARCH, and you learn that it's about getting a job, and not just getting a job or getting a good job. So why was it important for you? It's a big commitment for you to take, right as the whole school year. Why was it important for you to get a job in the first place? Do you want to start David?
David Buback 11:01
Sure, well, one of the main reasons for me, um, I'm one of those people, I have to have a purpose, my life. So for me to get a job, that will give me so much purpose like, and plus, I get bored, bored very easily, because I can like my mom and dad that they constantly have to find stuff for me to do. And so job gives me purpose, and gives me the ability to help people. And that's something else I really like, do, I like to help people. So that that opens up opportunity a doorway, to to meet that opportunity and do something with it. Well, I really need a job in the moment, because before then, I was going through a series of depression, like, I would never do anything like I would never accomplish something for myself, I would never do something worthwhile. But this job proved that not that notion rah. It Again, like my brother said, it gave me purpose again, like I could do something, I could show people what I can do. And it's a word is a purpose. It is it just makes me feel good about myself, makes me feel good about helping other people on a daily basis. And you can do so much with a job you can minister to people like, like, I know, I said, My someone's coffee, but that's just one instance of so you can even open a door for someone or this smiling helps them I know that positive energy.
Naveh Eldar 12:52
I know. It's wonderful, because both of you just want to contribute, right? Yeah, I mean, that's like, it's just such a human thing to just want to contribute and be part of the community and into it in whatever way is meaningful to you. So now, all of my listeners, obviously, everybody to conference knows about Project SEARCH, but not all of my listeners on my podcast are super familiar with Project Search. So walk us through a day of what it was like when you were in the programs. So it again, I'll repeat instead of going to school, you're not going your last year of high school, instead of going in and going through all your classes and going through your day in a cafeteria, you came to this hospital? And then what did your day look like once you got here? Why don't we start with Caleb this time?
Caleb Buback 13:34
Well, we go to a classroom with our teachers. And they would walk us through Hey, just driver's Driver's Ed. And they would teach us about money skills and how to manage our money correctly. And after those two things were all the way we go on to work. We would get to our apartment. And there would be someone there who we you could call it our mentor. And he would walk us through how a day to day basis goes in that particular department.
Naveh Eldar 14:15
And I know you rotate through different departments. So how many departments did you go through in your school year?
David Buback 14:20
I went through three and use there's three but I went through three before getting know my job.
Naveh Eldar 14:29
Okay, and what was your favorite department?
David Buback 14:32
Probably the last one. I was on food and nutrition. One thing that really I liked about it was the business of it because no, there's always something to do whether stocking something up like fridges or stuff like milk or like wrapping silverware on something to get my hands working and just keep me busy because I like staying busy. Okay,
Naveh Eldar 14:57
what was your favorite department Caleb?
Caleb Buback 15:00
For me, it would have to be transport that really got my exercise up, I was always going somewhere. And I will always go on this side of the hospital or the side of the hospital, I was always doing something. I was always there for those patients needs. And it gives me a comfort, peace and joy that I get to help people every day.
Naveh Eldar 15:25
And so let's move in a little bit, at least one question about your current jobs. So Dave, I'm curious, how have you changed from day one until today, in your development of being an employee?
David Buback 15:39
Well, to put it very simple, I'm in Starbucks, and I'm not I wasn't a coffee drinker. So I knew nothing about coffee. But once I started Starbucks, you know, it started from tasting coffee, getting that filter other coffee to learning how to make drinks like cappuccinos, or maybe just a latte. And then moving up from there on. I had to learn how eventually how to run a register, which I thought it was like, on big money scope. But really, it was just simple money skills. Don't you just know how to count really, and it wasn't that hard. I found a skill that I'm, I really I'm good at. And pretty soon. Over time, I was not only doing the register, I was teaching people to register Get
Naveh Eldar 16:32
out of here. So you went from not knowing if you could even do it? Yes. Teaching people. Awesome. Imagine that. Right? Imagine that. And they're not here to share like a team lead, though. Yes. Oh, that happened. Um, it's been like, three months now. Okay. Congratulations. Thank you, both of you that hit some nice milestones at your job. I see certification team lead. And so what about you? How have you developed in your job? What what skills have you grown in?
Caleb Buback 17:02
Well, one thing I can bear for take about away from being in this department is back day one was when they taught me punctuality. rarely have I been late to work. I am like the most punctual guy get there early. And I leave on time. I have definitely had a record for the most punctual worker in the department. And I think, even from one of my supervisors, I really brought a liveliness to the department that they've never seen before.
Naveh Eldar 17:44
And I know David, your your supervisor also talked about how you're the first one that she's like you get there. Half an hour early, every shift. Oh, yes. Yes. So both of you are known for your punctuality. Very good. David, you gave a card to your supervisor, thanking her for coaching you into a better employee, and it was so meaningful to her that she put it up on her wall at home. So what what moves you to do that? And why do you think it's important for anybody to be coached if the job because most people resist me, I'm just gonna let you know most people resist being coached. They feel like it's an insult to their work habits or whatever. So why did you do it? And why? Why is it important?
David Buback 18:32
Well, for one thing, people who are leading, I think most times they don't get as many thank yous as they should. Because they really, they really are trying their best to help people get to where they need to be. And they're trying their best to make sure that you know what to do you know how to do something. And if you're having trouble they want you to, they want you to engage in asking them. How do you do this? How do you do that? And so, for me to write that card for her. I'm just thanking her for criticizing me helping me through my tough times. And just even like, give me constructive criticism for the times that maybe I was just like, you might have said, some people are just not accepting of criticism. I wasn't really accepted Chris's criticism. At one point, I was like, I thought I could do it on my own. So when she gave me that constructive criticism, it really had gave me some insight that um, that I should really take follow directions and just accept people's advice because you never know. Someone's advice could give you a heads up and ultimately on make you a better employee in the long run?
Naveh Eldar 20:03
Very good. I have supervised many people. And one of the things we would do, what our yearly evaluations is, how well does the person take coaching, and I'm just letting you know, most people don't take it well, so I was always very thankful for employees that want it to grow and want to learn. And that's why you were made, I'm sure that's one of the reasons that led to you be coming elite, because you were wanting to grow and learn, Caleb. So I don't know if everybody's aware. But this is Disability Pride Month. July is Disability Pride Month. And I've heard you say that disability is a gift. Right? So I just want to know if you could talk about that. Like, what Why do you say that? Why do you feel like that?
Caleb Buback 20:47
Well, for instance, my disability, one of my disability is I'm schizophrenic, or bipolar as well. And sometimes I have these manic episodes, episodes where I am, like constantly talking, or I'm really hyper, I'm not really at all focused on what I'm doing. And I think that my job is really put me in a place where they helped me focus better. And I think that is really helped me, center myself, so to speak.
Naveh Eldar 21:39
And you also are good example, I know that your supervisor, I've talked about how you're such a good worker that it makes everybody else want to be, is going to work or as you are, and to work as hard as you do. So that's that's amazing. So last question. And then we have a couple fun things to talk about. And I know we're running a little short on time. So briefly, what are your goals now? Like outside of work? What in life? What are you looking forward to doing in the next? You know, a couple years? David, probably just drive my own car. No, you don't have a car. Now,
David Buback 22:12
I don't have a car now. But I'm learning I'm learning to drive now. So in the next few years, I'm planning on getting an actual car that I can drive from home to work is we have some transportation right now. But my one of my big goals is to drive on my own. So my parents have a lot, right, right.
Naveh Eldar 22:33
That's a freedom driving is independence. Right? I can go where I want when I want. Okay, Caleb, what are you working on?
Caleb Buback 22:40
Well, I am really urging to, like, this is like their high paying job. And so I'm making big bucks. But with that, I really am urging to take on all these bills that you know, the world has been talking about, like a utility bills, car bills, all of this are I really want to get into that. I want to feel like I'm super independent now.
Naveh Eldar 23:10
And you want to get your own place to write to you guys, when you if you get your own place you want to stick together, or
Caleb Buback 23:16
we've been told it's probably be best if we did move in together, you know, a few people work better than one step, actually do that and say sign it because places in Jackson are getting so high up in price. Yeah, maybe you just split down the middle. And then we've decided to move on from that we can't
Naveh Eldar 23:36
know. And before we get to the fun question,
Susie Rutkowski 23:39
I've got a yes. Free to take some extra time. This is fascinating.
Naveh Eldar 23:43
Okay, well, we're almost at the end, though, we will be very close to being on time. I know that David is an artist, such a good artist, that Starbucks allows him to put up some of his work in their store. So I want to know, I know you brought some things nice, I want to know if you could share it and talk about it for a second.
David Buback 24:02
So this is a picture that I made for Starbucks, um, it's basically um, I'm showing that Starbucks is the star and and the person is reaching out to this star because it's giving them hope. It's like you find hope in a cup. You know, every Starbucks dream, you're not only passing a cup of coffee out your, your customer, you're giving them hope to get them for the day. That's what that picture represents.
Naveh Eldar 24:38
And you did that this is all handmade artwork. Very nice. I've seen some of David's work. It is. It's beautiful. It really is. You know, a lot of people say that. The so many people are artists, you know, whether it's music or drawing, I mean your work is really, really good. So anyway, congratulations. Thank you for sharing that. Thank you. So my last question. Which is the fun question is I know you guys can be a little competitive. So I want to know, be honest, but don't start fighting. One at a time Do not interrupt each other when the other one is answering. That's a rule. What is something a something competitive? It could be chess, it could be video games, it could be basketball, I don't care what it is that you when you compete, you are better than your brother. So I'm going to start with David, what is something that you are better than your brother and I'm running. Okay,
David Buback 25:34
I've run several five K's in my time. Very nice. 11 to be exact. What got you in the running? Oh, I'm just uh, I like exercising is one of the things that keeps me motivated on and keeps moving me like, I don't like just sitting around a whole lot. So all exercise and running is one of those exercises that gets been going just me revved up and gets me moving into more activities.
Naveh Eldar 26:03
Very nice. All right, Caleb, what is something you are better?
Caleb Buback 26:09
Well, there's been playing See, he lives in a clean environment. And I live in a more dirty environment. I say I can only say that I am much better at the dirtier jobs. And he is just just take the first time he saw a C section on Facebook. He ran for the hills, as I was just watching in amazement, wow. new life into this world. What a amazing opportunity. That is awesome. No comment.
Naveh Eldar 26:42
So why is this funny? So I have I have two kids, and they're not kids. They're adults. Both of my college students now 18 and 20. And neither one of them likes to do the dirty dishes like the greasy grimy dishes at home, because it just grosses them out. Like, you know, some people are just like that. And some people can get their hands in there. So you have the perfect job, because you're cleaning surgical instruments, and you have a perfect job because you get to be greeting people and making them Have an awesome day. All right. So thank you both for taking the time to talk to the not just the Project SEARCH international community boss so to my listeners find links to the video of this episode, as well as the episode with co founder of Project SEARCH, who you heard for a moment at the end of the interview. I'll also add links to the Project SEARCH homepage itself, and you can find them on social media as well. Make sure to follow the landscape on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. Next episode, I travel all the way to Australia, to interview Yasmina McGlone, who is an outstanding advocate who is actually from Scotland. You'll hear all about that in the episode. She was honestly one of the most self aware and painfully honest people I've ever met. And yet another guest I hope to meet in person One day, she will speak about a neurological disorder called myoclonus dystonia and much more, including her journey to loving herself exactly as she is and of her wonderful advocacy campaign called Living with a jerk. brilliant, brilliant title. We'll see you that