By William R. Beach, MD
Seven young interns successfully completed this year’s Project SEARCH program at St. Mary’s Hospital. They celebrated on June 5 at a graduation ceremony. Here at Tuckahoe, we have several reasons to rejoice in this graduation. We teamed with St. Mary’s this year to provide a 10- week internship to one of the students. And…another one of the students, Nathan Nichols, is the son of Denise Nichols, our CEO here at Tuckahoe.
Project SEARCH is a high school transition program which helps youth with disabilities make a successful transition from high school to adult life. The program provides real life work experience and classroom training in employee and independent living skills. The ultimate goal is to enable these young people to find meaningful work and become self sufficient. Project SEARCH originated at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996 and currently has more than 200 sites across the U.S., Canada, England, Scotland and Australia.
Bon Secours Richmond is fortunate to be a part of one Project SEARCH program. This particular program is a collaborative effort of VCU, the Commonwealth of Virginia and also the local schools. The participants in this program all have autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). VCU has been awarded a 5 year grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to improve employment opportunities for youth with ASD. This funding is enabling VCU to conduct a research study to compare the effectiveness of two different training programs. The first training program is in the students’ home high school. The students participate in regularly scheduled classes and also receive vocational training. The second training program is through the Bon Secours Project SEARCH program.
Those students selected to participate in Bon Secours Project SEARCH devote one year to the program. This training takes place at St. Mary’s Hospital and affiliated healthcare organizations. Students split their time between classroom work and three internships in various departments . They work closely with their supervisors to develop the personal and professional skills needed for success.
Our practice was especially pleased to be selected as a worksite for Project SEARCH. I think this experience was a “win-win” for all involved. Our intern provided us with much needed help in a very busy department in our company. At the same time, we were able to help this young person with autism gain work experience.
Congratulations 2012 Project SEARCH graduates!