Milford High graduate perseveres and obtains work at Bayhealth.
Wayne Foster never imagined a future where he’d have a full time job, car or bank account. Now, he has all three.
Foster recently celebrated an important milestone when he was offered a job at Bayhealth Medical Center. He didn’t get the offer the conventional way.
After graduating from Milford High School in 2015, one of his teachers convinced him to join Project SEARCH, an international program that prepares people with disabilities for full-time employment.
Foster admits he was reluctant at first.
“I didn’t really know anything about Project SEARCH,” he said. “So I was kind of like ‘do I want to join or do I want to stay home and watch TV?’”
Through Project SEARCH he participated in three 10-week internships at Bayhealth, a Project Search partner where students hone their skills under a mentor.
The first internship, plant operations, taught him the essentials of grounds maintenance. The following two internships were in Environmental services where he learned about cleaning and customer service.
Foster is one of 18 students who have graduated from the Project Search program at Bayhealth since it started three years ago. He is also one of three students to be offered employment at Bayhealth.
As he progressed through the internships, his work ethic was noticed by the Bayhealth staff.
Alley Mendez, who was a job coach during his time as an intern, said his tenacity paid off.
“After he finished his plant operations we saw that he had a passion and a drive to work, and his hospitality skills alone gave us the idea this individual wants to work,” Mendez said.
According to Lisa Enright, Project SEARCH instructor with Capital School District, most of the students have some type of cognitive disability. They handle each one case-by-case.
“If you’ve ever heard Wayne speak, he’s an excellent speaker, but not so much for writing,” Enright said.
In order to help Foster move forward Enright worked with him on his reading and writing skills.
Over time, he learned how to ask when he needed help, but he tried hard to learn from his mistakes.
“He’s very receptive to constructive criticism,” Mendez said. “He’s able to take a direction that’s given to him and apply it. Once he’s able to demonstrate independence in doing that work where he once observed, that’s when you know they are ready to get more tasks.”
Foster, whose next step is to find an apartment, said he refuses to let his disability hold him down.
“I have money in my pocket now, so all of the stuff I went through it really helped me out and encouraged me to keep going on,” he said. “Just because I have some disability doesn’t mean I can’t go do what everyone else can.”