Sonoran UCEDD Project SEARCH Coordinator, Laura Schweers

Each DD Network Newsletter will highlight a staff member from one of the partnering agencies to recognize their hard work and dedication in exemplifying the mission of the Network to work collectively and collaboratively to foster the independence, advocacy and community integration of individuals with developmental disabilities. This Summer 2013 edition spotlights University of Arizona Sonoran UCEDD’s Project SEARCH Arizona statewide coordinator, Laura Schweers.

Laura Schweers

Laura SchweersMs. Schweers graduated from Newcomb College of Tulane University with a B.A. in English and History before attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, graduating with an A.O.S. in Culinary Arts. After graduation, Laura cooked in Napa Valley and Los Angeles before leaving the kitchen to work at the University of Southern California University Center for Developmental Disabilities (USC UCEDD) at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

At USC UCEDD, Laura coordinated several Maternal & Child Health Bureau grants that explored methods for enhancing systems of care for children with special health care needs. Other projects she coordinated: an AIDD grant focusing on developing partnerships among policy makers, parents, and providers to improve the deployment of preventative health resources; a collaborative project with two other UCEDDs (Iowa and UMass) jointly funded by CDC-NCBDD that administered a national formative evaluation to identify preferred and effective methods for delivery of information to physicians and families; development of a mentor training manual for young people with spina bifida; a telemedicine program that delivered continuing medical education (CME) training to increase access to health services for children with special health care needs in rural areas; and a CDC conference support grant promoting a team approach for the prevention /intervention of overweight in children with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD); and the USC UCEDD CME/CEU program.

After relocating to Tucson in 2008, Laura joined the Sonoran UCEDD, initially undertaking projects in the area of health promotion (developing health and wellness materials for individuals with I/DD; working with artists at ArtWorks to prepare healthy, satisfying meals) and one that established a partnership with young people to promote greater independence and self-advocacy skills.

Upon introduction to Project SEARCH, Sonoran UCEDD recognized the significant paradigm shift related to employment and disability articulated by the program. Since then, 2009, Ms. Schweers has served in the enviable role as statewide coordinator for the AZ Project SEARCH initiative. As of this fall, six Arizona sites will be operational. Laura enjoys working with young people as they grow toward their full potential – a truly wonderful experience, both personally and professionally. She also finds it incredibly rewarding to work with dedicated community partners and host businesses that recognize the talents and capabilities of these young people.  Ms. Schweers also serves on the Arizona Special Education Advisory Panel.