Project SEARCH teaches disabled students job skills
The students in Guilford County Schools Project SEARCH program are learning more than skills that will help them find jobs assisting patients.
They’re learning confidence and independence.
Guilford County Schools trains students with significant disabilities to be ready for the work force. The school system partnered with High Point Regional Health System and Friends Home in Greensboro for the program that began in November.
At High Point Regional, the students are working in various departments on a rotating basis. Four students were selected for the first-year program. They will experience three 10-week internship rotations within various departments at High Point Regional through June 28. Students are taught by a Guilford County Schools instructor and the job coaches provide on-site training in the student internship sites through UNC TEACCH-Greensboro at the hospital.
Bobbie Comer, career service liaison for High Point Regional, said leaders of the hospital learned about the national program and wanted to bring it to the community.
“They decided that they’d like to embrace and engage our diverse community,” she said. “They’re learning marketable skills, and if they don’t get offered a position here, which they often do, they’ll be ready.”
Project SEARCH is a national program licensed by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. It was founded in 1996 by Erin Riehle, a nurse administrator at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and her colleague, Susie Rutkowski, a special education administrator.
There are four campuses in the state, two in Guilford County that the school system operates. The High Point campus is one of only two in the nation specifically designed for students with autism. In the five months since the school system began the program, two of the students have found employment. And that’s the goal of the program — to prepare exceptional children for a fulfilling occupation after they leave school.
“These students are learning and growing in new ways every day,” says program administrator Robin Drake. “It’s been a success not just for the children we serve, but for the communities and businesses that are involved.”
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