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Project SEARCH Interns Enhance NECC Community

Submitted by on January 26, 2022 – 3:52 pm

Project SEARCH interns, shown front row left to right David Santos, Daniela Zorrilla, and Alexandra Talbot. Back row left to right Ross Barton, Greer Candage, and James Keith.

Haverhill, MA (January 26, 2022)-Since becoming neighbors in Haverhill eight years ago, the relationship between Northern Essex Community College and Opportunity Works, an organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of people with disabilities, has continued to grow.
One of the most successful partnerships has been Project SEARCH, a business-led internship program that prepares people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and on the Autism spectrum with secure integrated, competitive employment.

In the past eight years, over 30 college departments have taken on a Project SEARCH intern.

Over the course of nine months (a school year), participants intern for three, 10-week periods with three different departments on campus.  In addition to the work experience, they begin and end each day with work readiness classes covering topics like job interviews, resume writing, teamwork, professionalism, self-advocacy and technology in the workplace.

This year’s interns include Ross Barton of Andover, Brianna Caissie of Lynn, Greer Candage of Bradford, James Keith of North Andover, David Santos of Lawrence, Alexandra Talbot of North Andover, and Daniela Zorrilla of Lawrence.

Interns have been working on the COVID Team and in the mailroom, the health & wellness center, the café, the library, the YMCA child care center, and more.

“Working with Project SEARCH is extremely rewarding both professionally and personally,” said Michael McCarthy, vice president of administration for Northern Essex. “Northern Essex and Opportunity Works share a common goal of preparing individuals to advance in their careers and lives, so this is a natural fit. Seeing the interns’ pride as they graduate at the end of the program is inspiring.”

After they complete the program, the interns are prepared to seek out paid positions in the community. Since the program was started, graduates have been hired by Market Basket, Aubuchon Hardware, Target, Marshalls, and more.

“Our Project Search interns gain new employability skills, make new friends, develop professional contacts, find career interest and earn real job experience. Just like everyone else, these interns want to contribute to society. They have their own hopes, dreams and goals in life and NECC helps them experience just that,” said Jessica DelRosso, Project SEARCH manager.

The interns are enthusiastic about the experience and shared this feedback:

David Santos: “Project SEARCH is an opportunity to learn things about college, it gives me the opportunity to help find a job and also find new friends that I didn’t have before.”

Daniela Zorrilla: Project SEARCH is a place that you could learn new things about the work places and learn about the school. You also get to meet new people.”

James Keith: “Project SEARCH is a great resume builder and helps you obtain different skills in different internships. It would help you find a new job that best suits your skills. Plus, you can make new friends. My experience is amazing and incredible”

For more information, contact Allison Gagne, NECC’s director of auxiliary services,

Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers approximately 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth.  Each year, 6,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,000 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley.  For more information, visit the website at or call 978-556-3700.