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District Five’s Project SEARCH wins Outstanding Program of the Year

IRMO, SC – The Project SEARCH program in Lexington-Richland School District Five was named the Outstanding Program of the Year by the South Carolina chapter of the Division on Career Development and Transition’s Council for Exceptional Children. The Project SEARCH team was honored with the award on Wednesday, October 19th, at the Division on Career Development and Transition’s 2016 Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have the partnerships we have in place with Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge, The Arc of the Midlands, the Developmental Disabilities Council, and Vocational Rehabilitation in order to make these opportunities possible for our students,” said Director of Special Services Dr. Angie Slatton. “It is the opportunity to show the business world that our students are employable and will be valued team members if given the chance.”

A national initiative, Project SEARCH is a business-led, school-to-work transition model. It develops internships for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are in their last year of high school. District Five paved the way last year as the first Project SEARCH site in the Midlands, and only the second site statewide. In partnership with Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge, The Arc of the Midlands, the Developmental Disabilities Council, and South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation, District Five offers students an educational, hands-on internship experience.

In addition to the program award at the conference, the Employer of the Year award was presented to Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge. They were recognized for their support as a host training and mentoring site for students with disabilities, and for their inclusive hiring practices.

District Five students continue to find success through participation in Project SEARCH. Last year’s class included five students who are now all gainfully employed between 20-40 hours per week. They work in a variety of hospital departments at Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge including Out-Patient Surgery, Emergency Department, Food and Nutrition Services, and Supply and Distribution. Eight students are participating in the program this year and have eagerly embarked on their first internship rotation. They completed a resume and interview process, and are working alongside a hospital employee mentor for a five-hour daily shift.

Student Jake Arguilla explained, "I like Project SEARCH because I want to learn job skills and make new things. I like it here because it's hard work and I like to meet new people and hospital staff."

Interns will complete a total of three eleven-week internship rotations in a variety of departments throughout the hospital. Placement options include positions in the Intensive Care Unit, Imaging, the Medical/Surgical Floor, Environmental Services, Sterile Processing, Food and Nutrition Services, Pre-Operative/Post-Anesthesia Care, Supply and Distribution, the Laboratory, and Engineering. Students are engaged in an inclusive work environment and learn department specific skills from their teams. They are included in department trainings, meetings, and celebrations to experience every aspect of being an employee.

“Our students learn best from consistent and immersive experiences with functional skills, and this program provides a real-life training setting all day every day,” said Project SEARCH Instructor Elizabeth Magee. “This year's interns are becoming more professional and more grown-up every day, and the transformation in their confidence and pride is evident. Our team is excited to continue to help them gain skills and eventually begin job searches in the spring.”

District Five serves over 2,300 students with disabilities and provides a variety of programs to meet the needs of all students. In addition to Project SEARCH internships, high school students have access to career resources at the annual Transition Fair every spring.

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