Twenty-five D.C. high school students – along with their teachers and job coaches -- got a special treat on December 13, when they met with Presidential Advisor Kareem Dale and toured the White House in all its holiday trim.
The students are participants in Project SEARCH, an award-winning internship program for youth with developmental disabilities that transitions them from school to work. The students spend their final year of high school in a workplace, where they divide their time between classroom study and work-based learning, with the goal of ending the year ready for full-time employment.
The Department of Labor was the first federal agency to host Project SEARCH in 2009. DOL has been joined by four other agencies: the Departments of Education, Health & Human Services, Interior, and the National Institutes of Health. Twenty-eight students from the federal programs had a graduation ceremony at DoE in June, and a number of them are now employed.
During their meeting with Kareem, the students from this year’s class asked questions ranging from what’s a typical day for President Obama to why it’s so difficult to find a job. Kareem shared the story of how he met the President, back when Kareem was a law student and President Obama was a state senator.
Highlights of the tour included seeing the reception and dining rooms, decorated with historic ornaments and a giant gingerbread White House. One of the teachers, who uses a wheelchair and was able to ride in the Presidential elevator, got a glimpse of the First Dog Bo.
The students agreed that it was one of the most exciting days of their lives.
Rayna Aylward is the Project SEARCH Coordinator for the Department of Education.