From Plant Press Vol. 17 no. 2, April 2014.
By Rusty Russell, Collections Manager
The call for diversity in the workforce is often followed by varying degrees of action and inaction. However, in 2013 the Smithsonian Institution “walked the talk” and issued a policy statement which is designed to promote efforts to address diversity in all categories. One new program has made significant in-roads in broadening employment opportunities for learning disabled young adults. Project|SEARCH Smithsonian is a one year transition program designed for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are either in their last year of high school or are recent graduates. The program targets individuals whose main goal is employment and involves total immersion, extensive training, job coaching and feedback from coaches and employers.
One of the participants in the program is a very engaging young man named Edward “Ted” Dalpino who has just arrived in the Department of Botany to assist with collections duties in the Core Collections Management Unit. Ted comes to us from a recent assignment at the National Air & Space Museum. As with other program participants, Ted will be on-site each school day for six hours over the next ten weeks with the possibility of an extension. Our collections staff, Andrew Clark, Melinda Peters and Meghann Toner, have enthusiastically welcomed Ted and will be providing daily training.
Another participant is Zachary Bergold Lynch, who is working in the Office for Human Resources, the Hirschhorn’s Registrar’s office, and now the Department of Botany for the next ten weeks. Zachary has a very busy day! In Botany, he is scanning pollen micrographs created by Joan Nowicke for her palynological research. Botany’s Information Technology crew will be watching and wondering at his fast progress.
Their Project|SEARCH job coach, Kristina Nabors, is also part of the initial training and will be on-call to Ted, Zachary, and our staff.
This opportunity results from the initiative of Botany staff members Sylvia Orli and Rusty Russell in exploring these opportunities and expressing our willingness to participate in this program and demonstrate our Department’s commitment to a diverse workforce.
What does the future hold for Ted and Zachary? Well, mostly that’s up to them. Their commitment, work ethic, and goals will ensure a brighter future far more than our willingness to provide an opportunity. But we are proud to be a part of their journey and support diversity efforts in the Institution.