Opportunities, jobs await Project SEARCH graduates


Project SEARCH graduated its latest class of graduates during a ceremony at Vicar’s Landing at Oak Bridge on May 23.

The class consisted of three graduates, who were Zach Bower, Caleb Clayton and Dylan Nicholas.

It was fittingly held at Vicar’s Landing at Oak Bridge because that had been the place where the three had gained experience as student interns with the facility over the past two years in conjunction with the Project SEARCH program in St. Johns County.

As interns, the three performed a variety of skill training and learned how to work within a team environment.

There were many mentors within Vicar’s Landing at Oak Bridge, both staff and residents alike that played a helping hand in making sure the three were as prepared as they could be for a career in the workforce.

One of these mentors was Lou Lindeman, who not only spoke about the positive impact being a mentor had on the graduates but also the impact it has on the mentors themselves.

“I’m proud to be called a resident of Vicar’s Landing at Oak Bridge, because they have a management team here that was willing to donate their time and resources to a program like this,” Lindeman said.

Some of the many ways in which mentors assisted the graduates in the program included partnering with them on team building exercise, working at food pantry’s, planting flowers in the gardens at BEAM, as well as just sharing insight into what the real world and the working environment is like.

“We sat down with them one-on-one and talked about what it’s going to be like to interview and to work in an environment where you have to compete with others,” Lindeman said. “These are outstanding young men, and they are all driven to succeed, and with that drive and desire to learn they will succeed going forward. I’m proud to call each one of them my friend.”

A testament to the program doing its part to present them with the skills needed to succeed, is that Zach and Caleb are graduating with jobs lined up at Publix and Home Depot, respectively, while Dylan still pursues his dream job of working at Dunkin’ Donuts.

“It’s obvious when you see the joy in this group and everyone that’s getting to celebrate with you, that you have been great role models for students who are going to follow you, and I thank you for that,” St. Johns County superintendent Tim Forson said.

Forson also thanked Vicar’s Landing for being willing to partner and help give back to the community by making sure the program and its students the needed guidance.

Partnerships between businesses and the school system can go a long way in offering certain real-world scenarios that would otherwise not be attainable and the students are the ones that benefit from that.

“This does not happen everywhere, and a huge thank you to the members (of Vicar’s Landing at Oak Bridge) who were willing to embrace this idea and embrace these three young men,” Forson said.