SEARCH interns ready for the future

Project SEARCH interns recently helped to create angel artwork to sell to customers across the nation. (contributed)

Project SEARCH interns recently helped to create angel artwork to sell to customers across the nation. (contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

When I walked into the room at Shelby Baptist Medical Center to meet with Project SEARCH participants last week, I was immediately greeted by the about 15 students who were preparing to create beautiful works of art to sell to buyers from across the nation.

Several of the students were quick to stand up and look me in the eye as they shook my hand – a skill that will benefit them later in life as they are interviewing for a job.

I could tell the Project SEARCH job coaches have done a fantastic job of preparing their students for life after high school. When I saw what the students did next, I understood why they were so prepared to enter the business world upon graduation from the program.

That day, artist Thomas Andrew made a visit to Project SEARCH’s office to work with the interns on a joint art venture. Project SEARCH works with special-needs students in Shelby County and Alabaster schools to offer the students internships at area businesses, and also works to find the students jobs after they graduate.

Through the partnership, Andrew makes donations to Project SEARCH to allow the program to upgrade its technology offerings, and the interns help Andrew construct angel-themed art pieces to sell at shows and shops across the country.

Over the past several months, some local retailers have taken notice of Project SEARCH’s angel artwork, and have started selling them in their stores. English Ivy Gifts off Doug Baker Boulevard in Greystone now carries the artwork, and Hoover’s Ross Bridge resort is preparing to add the items to its hotel gift shop.

Watching the interns – who represented a multitude of schools throughout the county – work was like watching a well-oiled machine. They seamlessly glued Andrew’s art to small boards and attached small stickers to the back of the board explaining Project SEARCH and telling buyers where the beautiful artwork came from.

I applaud Project SEARCH for allowing the interns to be a part of their own business model while learning skills that will benefit them throughout the lives, no matter where life takes them.

Neal Wagner is a Managing Editor for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 511 or by email at Neal.wagner@shelbycountyreporter.com.