Thursday was graduation day for a Quad Cities program that’s one of a kind.
Five students with disabilities graduated from the Project Search program in Bettendorf.
The national initiative came to the Quad Cities in 2016 at North Scott High School.
That program now includes Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley schools and is hosted at UnityPoint Trinity.
It has also sparked two other branches in Clinton and Davenport.
The goal is to help interns develop the skills to live and work alongside others who don’t share their disabilities.
Local 4’s Tahera Rahman got a glimpse of how that’s taking shape for 21-year-old Corryn Taghon.
“No homework because I don’t like homework at all. And no grades, so I’m happy about that,” says the Pleasant Valley graduate.
That’s because Taghon is part of a different kind of program that doesn’t give students a certificate for their grades, but for their hands-on job training.
“It’s fun, I like it. And I’m sad it’s over,” Taghon says.
It’s what helped her land a job at Capriotti’s in Davenport.
For the past two months, the 21-year-old has helped wash dishes, prepare food and hand out orders.
“It’s kind of hard but now I’m used to it,” she says.
Her favorite job is making the meatballs.
“We have to assemble all the ingredients and she rolled them and she weighed them and then she took care of them and everything was perfect,” says James Gimbel, Capriotti’s Davenport franchise owner.
“That’s a pretty in-depth task and she’s handling them well.”
It’s what Taghon calls an adult job she didn’t think she’d ever have.
And it’s what makes the program worthwhile for her instructor, Stacie Kintigh.
“We work so hard on them growing to understand themselves and what their own personal desires and passions are and being able to see that come to fruition is amazing,” says Kintigh.
Kintigh has helped prepare five students over the past nine months.
She says in her 27 years as a special education teacher, the past two with Project Search have been the most fulfilling of her career.
Now, three internships later, Taghon is entering the adult world with her adult job.
She has a message for her peers: “My mom always says, ‘Suck it up, buck up,’ so don’t be nervous, just be yourself.”
And for her teacher: “I love her and she makes me happy everyday,” says Taghon.
Seven students are already signed up for next year’s program in Bettendorf.
If you’d like to find out how you can apply for the 2019 school year or how you can bring project search to your school district, you can contact Stacie Kintigh at firstname.lastname@example.org.