District Five Celebrates Project SEARCH Class of 2017 Graduates

COLUMBIA – Lexington-Richland School District Five held its graduation for Project SEARCH students on May 30 at Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge.

In August 2016, the district partnered with the Arc of the Midlands, Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge and South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation to launch the first Project SEARCH site in the Midlands. A national initiative, Project SEARCH is a business-led school-to-work transition model, developing internships for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are in their last year of high school.

The seven students graduating in the class of 2017 include: Jake Arguilla (Irmo High), Leah Bingham (Irmo High), James Blake (Dutch Fork High), Dale Roberts (Irmo High), Robert Stark (Spring Hill High), Preston Thompson (Spring Hill High) and Brianna Tucker (Dutch Fork High). For the second consecutive year, all students from the Project SEARCH program have earned employment.

“I was asked to speak to the business community last year to discuss Parkridge and Project SEARCH, and I really struggled to find the words to explain the magic that happens here,” said Sarah Kirby, Chief Operating Officer at Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge. “We see a transformation with our interns. They are not the same people as when they started. Their personalities have come out. We know what they love and they have confidence now.”

Interns completed a total of three eleven-week internship rotations in a variety of departments throughout the hospital. Placement options included 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 engaged in an inclusive work environment and learned department specific skills from their teams. They were included in department trainings, meetings and celebrations to experience every aspect of being an employee.

District Five serves nearly 2,000 students with disabilities annually, providing a variety of programs for K-12 students. The Project SEARCH initiative is just one of the programs the district has implemented to ensure special needs students and families have access to services. In February, over 150 parents turned out to the district’s Community Services Fair where more than 30 local vendors were on hand to inform families about the services they offer.

“Transition has always held a special place in my heart,” said District Five Director of Special Services Angie Slatton. “Employment is a reward for these students. This is an opportunity for not only the students, but for us as well. Seeing the graduation and seeing the parents… to be able to celebrate with them means so much. This is truly one of the greatest moments for our office.”

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