Students graduate from Project SEARCH program

Lexington-Richland School District Five celebrated its sixth year of the student-initiative Project SEARCH, graduating students from the program at Prisma Health Baptist Parkridge.
The five students graduating in the class of 2021 include: Keontre’ Dawson (Irmo High), Jedaiah Gillings (Dutch Fork High), Hannah Knight (Dutch Fork High), Jermaine Simmons (Irmo High), and Andrew Watkins (Chapin High). Each graduate has been hired for a job in the community.

School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties, Prisma Health and SC Vocational Rehabilitation have collaborated since 2015 to bring Project SEARCH to young adults 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.

“Project SEARCH takes everything research has shown us about what works for preparing students for transition to employment and combines it into an interagency partnership with tangible, meaningful outcomes,” said Project SEARCH Instructor Dr. Elizabeth Magee. “This collaboration among Lexington-Richland School District Five, SC Vocational Rehabilitation, and Prisma Health Baptist Parkridge allows our students to experience an unforgettable year of personalized training and goal-setting, followed by a smooth, supported transition to the workforce. Real-world internship training paired with life skills and self-determination instruction provide our graduates with knowledge to be healthy, responsible, and independent workers contributing to their communities and to their families.”

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, and Supply and Distribution. Students engaged in an inclusive work environment and learned department specific skills from their teams. They were included in department trainings, 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.

Michael Bundy, Prisma Health Baptist Parkridge CEO, is proud of the program and the achievements of the enrolled students.

“When the students are with us, on our campus, they become part of our family,” Bundy said.

Since 2015, 36 interns have completed the program. Prisma Health has hired 15 to become part of their team.

“As one of South Carolina’s largest employers, Prisma Health believes in the power of collaboration for career training,” Bundy said. “From the beginning, this partnership has been about helping students find a path to successful employment. We are proud to say we’ve been able to continue this effort even during a pandemic. Prisma Health has been able to add some of the students to our team but more importantly, they finish the program confident and ready to work. This is another way we have been able to give back to our community.”
School District Five serves nearly 2,500 students with disabilities annually, providing a variety of programs for students in grades 3K-12. 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.

“We are so excited to celebrate this sixth class of Project SEARCH graduates in School District Five,” said School District Five Director of Special Services Dr. Angie Slatton. “This partnership with Prisma Health and Vocational Rehabilitation of SC is the perfect opportunity for students to learn and practice real world employment skills. These interns are our shining stars and I can’t wait to see them in the community in their new jobs.”

Pictured left to right: Hannah Knight, Andrew Watkins, Keontre’ Dawson, Jedaiah Gillings