Amanda Ort, 29, of Dallastown, talks with friends and students after York College’s graduation ceremony Wednesday. Ort graduated with a
Amanda Ort, 29, of Dallastown, talks with friends and students after York College's graduation ceremony Wednesday. Ort graduated with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and special education. (Bil Bowden photo)

Amanda Ort was waiting for her graduation

  ceremony to start Wednesday morning at York College when she got a text from one of her students.

It said to look up. When Ort did, she saw all 10 of her students from the time she spent student teaching with Project Search.

"I was shocked," said Ort, 29, of Dallastown.

"And I didn't expect them to stay for the whole thing either, but they did," Ort said. "It made my heart melt."

The program: Project Search is a one-year school-to-work program at York Hospital that provides 18- to 21-year-olds with learning disabilities with total immersion in the workplace. Students interview for the positions, and those who are chosen get to work in several hospital departments.

The program's goal is to provide students with real-life work experience to help them when they apply for jobs. Project Search is a partnership between Lincoln Intermediate Unit, WellSpan, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and York/Adams Mental Health/Mental Retardation.

Ruth Moore, a teacher with the Lincoln Intermediate Unit, made Ort's graduation surprise possible and accompanied the students.

"She was the first student teacher we've had, and she was fantastic," Moore said. "They obviously adored her, and it was their idea to come."

"They thought it was pretty cool that she was looking for jobs just like they are," said Moore.

"She makes learning fun," said student Braden Young.

Hugs abounded as Ort greeted her supporters after commencement ended.

"I promise to come back in," Ort told them. "I can't stay away."

Ort received her bachelor of science degree. She had a dual major of elementary education and special education.

Inspiration: Helping out in her son's classroom inspired her to pursue a career as a teacher.

But her mother remembers her using a chalkboard and playing school with her three younger siblings as a child.

Ort is the daughter of Steve Ort, of Lancaster, and Louise Ketter, of Dallastown.

Commencement for the nearly 300 graduates included a welcome from George Waldner, president of York College. Graduating student Emily R. Perry gave a speech and introduced faculty speaker Stacy Lutter, assistant professor of the Stabler Department of Nursing.

An honorary degree was awarded to Stephen Kushner, the director of studies and director of choral music at Germantown Friends School.

Kushner reminded everyone of the importance of a hard work ethic and encouraged graduates to learn to love the questions in their lives.

-- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or cshank@yorkdispatch.com