Agency: Arc of North Carolina – Asheville, North Carolina
Length of Service: 2 years
Camden Lambert is the supported employment specialist of the Mission Health Project SEARCH program, a yearlong vocational training internship program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She annually supports between 8-12 interns through three ten-week rotations through the hospital in departments ranging from laundry and food & nutrition to surgical services and sterile processing. Through the creation of physical supports or the use of technology, consultations with managers, and engaging in continuous learning in her field, Ms. Lambert stays at the forefront of innovation in supporting the interns. After the program, she continues supporting the aspirational job development of the interns in the community. When the COVID-19 pandemic stuck, the 2019-2020 cohort was moving into its third and final ten-week internship. The final internship is the most important as the interns are placed in a department that most resembles the employment situation they would like to pursue when they graduate. Without the experience of that important internship, interns are left with an incomplete experience. On March 17th we were asked to vacate the hospital out of caution. Ms. Lambert was undeterred and worked tirelessly to create a system of individualized virtual check-ins and volunteer opportunities in the community to approximate the third internship experience for all interns. Ms. Lambert genuinely recreated ten weeks of programming on the fly and successfully found jobs for each of the interns who were in situations to obtain employment while in the middle of a worldwide health crisis. Additionally, while the program has been out of session for the summer, Ms. Lambert is supporting past interns in their return to their jobs from sheltering-in-place as they navigate new safety protocols, radically different staffing, and a new perspective on customer service. She has had a hand in helping to add over 200 hours a week into the workforce of our region.
“Camden Lambert is the rare direct support professional who can both speak the language of businesses to explain the value individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities can provide on a job, while also helping those same individuals conceptualize what employers need from them as employees. She is a wonderful advocate for those she supports and an appreciated member of the Mission Health Project SEARCH program.”
Testimonials from Individuals Supported
“I give Project Search and Camden a whole lot of credit for all the progress and success my son has achieved in the past 12 months. His future has gone from “not sure what he will do” to he can pretty well do whatever HE wants to do! The students seem to benefit so much from the face to face, one on one, group/team atmosphere and the actual work setting. It was the perfect program for my son at the perfect time, with his maturity and transition from high school to the next step. It’s really hard to express just how much he is getting out of Project Search. We have had all kinds of conversations about what he is learning there from the current events to wanting to know another word for self-determination! So, please know this program and Camden’s support really worked for him.” –Email from the parent of an intern who found work during the pandemic
“I was a Project SEARCH intern last year, the program changed my life and I never thought I would be able become what I wanted to be. WIth Camden’s help I believe in myself and am happier than ever.” -A former intern who now works at his aspirational job as a cook