Texas Tech University

TechWorks for Texas

The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) awarded the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research at Texas Tech University a five year grant entitled TechWorks for Texas in 2011. This grant project promotes and supports the statewide implementation of Project SEARCH, a "unique, business led, one year school-to-work program that takes place entirely at the workplace". Project SEARCH provides real-life work experience to help youth with significant disabilities make successful transitions from school to adult life.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities face significant barriers to achieving meaningful, rewarding employment. Project SEARCH works to combat this barrier by focusing on the transition from high school to adult life—a critical juncture for establishing lifelong patterns for young adults to enter the workforce. Project SEARCH prepares these young adults for competitive employment so they can achieve personal fulfillment, independence, and enhanced self-sufficiency as contributing members of their communities.

The Burkhart Center has partnered with the TCDD, the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), and the National Project SEARCH staff, located at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, to roll out training and technical assistance to collaborative community teams across Texas. These teams include local representatives from school districts, DARS, businesses, and other community organizations that want to support a model transition training program for young adults, ages 18-22, with developmental disabilities who are in their last year of high school and are ready to receive training to enter the workforce.

Project Director, DeAnn Lechtenberger, from the Burkhart Center leads this project, which will identify up to 10 individual Texas communities to receive financial support for training in the Project SEARCH model by staff from the National Project SEARCH Office. Additional technical assistance support is provided by TechWorks for Texas and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. Additional resources and support is also provided by Education Service Centers, Region XI with Carla Johnson, Region X with Sandye Cox, and Region VI with Diane Roberson.

The first cohort of Texas communities to begin the rollout of their local Project SEARCH program is from the Dallas-Fort Worth region of Texas. These three site teams are led by the school district teams of Garland ISD with Atlas Copco, Lewisville ISD with Lewisville Medical Center, and Fort Worth ISD with Texas Wesleyan University. They launched their programs in the fall 2013 with the first group of student interns. The second cohort of community sites selected to begin Project SEARCH are in Sugarland/Fort Bend ISD with United Health Care, College Station ISD with Baylor, Scott, and White, and Brenham ISD with Baylor, Scott, and White. These programs will begin serving student interns in fall 2014.

For more information, contact Dr. DeAnn Lechtenberger, Director of Technical Assistance and Community Outreach for the Burkhart Center, College of Education, Texas Tech University, (806) 834-7804 or deann.lechtenberger@ttu.edu or Kelly Golden, Project Coordinator, (806) 834-0779 or kelly.j.golden@ttu.edu.