Lexington-Richland School District Five celebrated its fourth year of the student-initiative Project SEARCH, graduating students from the program during a May 31 at Prisma Health Baptist Parkridge.
The five students graduating in the class of 2019 include: Kaleigh Cornelius (Dutch Fork High), Lana Hipes (Dutch Fork High), Mar’trell Gamill (Irmo High), Chase McCarty (Irmo High), and Ta’Shawn Wannamaker (Dutch Fork High). All students from the Project SEARCH program have obtained employment ranging from Hyatt Hotel, Longhorn and Prisma Health.
School District Five of Lexington and Richland counties, Prisma Health and SC Vocational Rehabilitation have collaborated since 2015 to bring Project SEARCH to teens in the Midlands with special needs. Project SEARCH is a business-led school-to-work transition model with demonstrated success in developing internships for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are in their last year of high school.
“Our goal is employment whether that’s within Prisma Health or the community,” said Kathryn Harris, Business Liaison at Prisma Health Baptist Parkridge. “We are providing a real work setting for these students, training and coaching them along the way. When they exit our program they are confident and ready to work. I am amazed each year by their individual progress. I am proud and honored to be a part of this program.”
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.
School 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.
“We know that students with special needs need opportunities in the community to practice work skills,” said School District Five Director of Special Services Dr. Angie Slatton. “This intensive internship is really the ideal setting for them. They work through three rotations at the hospital and get to work side by side with other professionals. The students are treated as professionals and they are ready to compete competitively when they finish this program.”