Project SEARCH welcomes new class of interns

Published 10:29 pm Wednesday, August 28, 2013

By KATIE MCDOWELL/Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Project SEARCH recently welcomed a new group of interns to Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

Ten special needs high school students from Chelsea High, Montevallo High, Thompson High School and Oak Mountain High are participating in the program.

Project SEARCH is a national program designed to help special needs high school students transition to the work force through a series of internships with a community partner. Locally, the program is made possible through a partnership between a handful of local and state groups, including the ARC of Shelby County and Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

The program offers a combination of classroom instruction and internships. Students rotate through three 10-week internships at Shelby Baptist Medical Center, where they work at different departments, including physical therapy and the diagnostic center.

Kim Bryant, Project SEARCH lead job coach, said the interns will have expanded duties this year.

“They’re going to be able to assist more with transporting patients, whether it’s in a bed or wheelchair,” she said.

Project SEARCH teacher Lacy Jordan said the program, which is now in its second year, is running smoothly.

“I would say this year has been a lot easier,” she said. “We’re spending less time planning and more time teaching them.”

Most of the interns who participated in the program’s pilot year have gone on to find paid jobs at TJ Maxx, Shelby Baptist Medical Center and several restaurants. Interns work on their resumes while participating in Project SEARCH, and they receive assistance in job searching if they haven’t found employment before completing the program.

Jordan said the interns who have found paid work are now more independent and motivated.

“We noticed when they went into paid positions, they are so much more motivated to work,” she said, adding that one former intern used her first few paychecks to buy herself an iPad.

Project SEARCH information sessions will be held on Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m. and Feb. 20 at the Shelby Baptist Medical Center Physicians’ Center.

To participate in the program, students must be between the ages of 18-21 and in their final year of eligibility at Shelby County Schools or Alabaster City Schools.