District Five students graduate from Project SEARCH

Lexington-Richland School District Five celebrated its seventh year of the student-initiative Project SEARCH, graduating students from the program during a June 1 ceremony at Prisma Health Baptist Parkridge.

The four students graduating in the class of 2022 include: Aaron Ervin (Irmo High), Da’Marcus Hare (Irmo High), Kelsea Jackson (Dutch Fork High), and James Vaughns (Irmo High). All students from the Project SEARCH program have obtained employment ranging from Cambria Hotel, Lowes, Duraclean and Walmart.

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.

“This partnership is a true definition of a win-win opportunity for both of us,” said Mike Bundy, CEO at Prisma Health Baptist and Baptist Parkridge. “The students are essential parts of our team and play a big part in supporting our patient care initiative and supporting our community. Project SEARCH has become a fabric of who Baptist Parkridge is and we are thankful to have this program on our campus each and every day!”

Interns completed a total of three eleven-week internship rotations in a variety of departments throughout the hospital. Placement options included positions in Environmental Services, Food and Nutrition Services, Surgery Center, Med/Surg, Imaging, and Supply and Distribution. Students engaged in an inclusive work environment and learned department-specific skills from their teams. They were included in department training, meetings, and celebrations to experience every aspect of being an employee. Each intern also planned and executed multiple personal Employment Planning Meetings throughout the year to guide their support team in decisions related to their future job interests.

School District Five serves nearly 2,500 students with disabilities annually, providing a variety of programs for students in 3K-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.

“Project SEARCH is a model program for students with disabilities. It provides the opportunity for them to practice all of the skills they have learned in the classroom in authentic job placement,” 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 side by side with other professionals. The skills learned are essential for them to go on to independent employment upon graduation. We are truly grateful to our partners for this ongoing opportunity!”