A collaboration between CMC and Bartow County schools, Project SEARCH instructor Kristy Mitchell said the program, which caters to youth with disabilities, initially began at the end of last year when students came in for working interviews, and eventually, students were selected to begin training at the beginning of this school year. She explained current students receive school credit for the internship and can participate in the program through age 22.
“Starting Wednesday we’re going to stagger [the] start and they’re actually going to be in a department in the hospital for 10 weeks at a time learning as many skills as they can,” Mitchell said. “They’ll do three different internships throughout the school year, and then, our goal, hopefully at the end of the school year, is to have them employed at least 20 hours a week.”
She continued, “They won’t have to work in a hospital, but by the end of the program, they’ll have learned so many skills that hopefully we’ll be able to get them into any type of job that opens up with an entry-level position.”
Interns will have the opportunity to participate in occupational medicine, health information and plant operation.
“They’ll have mechanical skills and in plant operation they’ll have to complete work orders and so as the work orders come up they may have to repair a wheelchair,” Mitchell said, for example “... We have a student that’s going to be in radiation oncology over at the Hope Center and he’ll do a lot of front office work and scheduling, but he’ll also work with the physicist ... to make sure [medicines] are up to date, make sure the waiting room is clean and neat, he’ll go turn the beds over between patients.
“We have another student who is going to be in food service and is going to be in the cafeteria preparing meals and then preparing and delivering trays and also serving in the cafeteria. [The program] is a little bit of everything.”
Alan Harris, a 2013 graduate of Cass High School and intern, says he enjoys the physical aspects of working in the program.
“[I enjoyed] transferring stuff and lifting heavy stuff ... to other departments,” Harris said. “I like working out on the loading docks and I’m all about physical strength.”
BCSS Job Coach Amber McCurley said the interns also aren’t only learning employable skills, but life-saving skills as well.
“Every one of our interns are CPR certified now,” McCurley said. “We actually received our CPR certification [this week].”
Project SEARCH was developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996.