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When COVID stalled their internships, the election put these students with disabilities back to work

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Posted at 5:33 PM, Nov 09, 2020

LEBANON, Ohio — Before Haley Marion graduated from Mason High School earlier this year, she was getting ready to intern in the child support field to prepare herself for the workforce after graduating. Then COVID-19 hit Ohio, and she lost that internship before she could begin due to pandemic-related restrictions.

As the coronavirus persisted through the summer and fall, the Warren County Board of Elections realized they would need extra help during this unprecedented election cycle.

"I normally work in child support, so I work here because, you know, child support closed due to COVID," Marion told WCPO. "So I'm helping out with the Board of Elections."

Marion, 19, was a Mason student with special needs and has been working with Project Search, a program out of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center that works to place high school students and recent graduates living with disabilities into internship positions. While she misses her work in child support, Marion said she's happy to be working at all.

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Haley Marion interned at the Warren County Board of Elections after her previous internship was stalled by the coronavirus pandemic.

"I didn't feel too bad because I heard this place needed help. So I work here," she said. "It's important for me to work so I can make money and pay my expenses."

Warren County Board of Elections Director Brian Sleeth said he was "sold right from the very beginning."

"We need all the help we can get," he said.

Marion is one of 12 interns hired by the Warren County Board of Elections this year through Project Search.

"I was approached by some elected officials and asked if we would be interested in this program, so we jumped right on board," Sleeth said, adding that his office was in desperate need for cleaning, sorting and other clerical workers as they processed more ballots than in recent memory.

For intern Jacob Russell, the elections office allowed him to perform one of his favorite tasks: shredding.

When asked why he liked shredding, he said, "I don't know, 'cause I like it, 'cause it keeps getting full and overheats."

One day, Russell hopes to work for the Cincinnati Reds, and he hopes experience like what he's earning through Project Search will pave the way.

"It's helping me a lot," he said.

As for Marion, she hopes one day to work with animals.

"It's helping me to get a good job. There'll be more people that probably want to hire me," she said.