Project SEARCH offers internships to disabled students

Published 9:51 am Friday, October 19, 2012

By KATIE MCDOWELL/Lifestyles Editor

A new program allows disabled students in the county school system to gain professional work experience through a one-year internship.

Program administrators shared information about Project SEARCH at the Shelby County Board of Education meeting on Oct. 18.

Shelby County Schools Special Education Supervisor Kerri Johnson said 10 students are interning at Shelby Baptist Medical Center this year. Each student participates in three internships in different departments, including administration, medical records and the women’s center.

“They obtain the skills they need to go out into the real world,” she said.

Project SEARCH has been implemented in more than 200 locations, but this is the first in Alabama, Johnson said, adding that they hope to include more students in the future.

Disabled students who participate in the program have a 67 percent employment rate, compared to a 30-40 percent employment rate, according to program statistics.

In other business, the board approved Dr. Lewis Brooks as assistant superintendent of administration.

Brooks has spent 18 years with the Shelby County School System, and has 23 years of experience in public education in a variety of roles. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education and an educational specialist degree in leadership from the University of Montevallo. He also has a doctorate of education from Samford University.

“Thank you to this amazing team that we work with,” he said. “We have such a wonderful team of leaders. I’m very humbled by this appointment.”

The Oct. 18 meeting also marked board President Dr. Lee Doebler’s last. Doebler has served on the board for 24 years, and was defeated in a March election by Jimmy Bice.

Superintendent Randy Fuller thanked Doebler for his service and praised his “calm manner.”

“I want to take the opportunity to thank him for all he has done for the Shelby County School System for the last 24 years,” Fuller said.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. at the central office in Columbiana.