Project SEARCH helps students with intellectual disabilities prepare for workforce

A program helping students with intellectual disabilities prepare for the workforce just kicked off its 4th year.
Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 10:25 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - A program helping students with intellectual disabilities prepare for the workforce just kicked off its 4th year.

Hattiesburg High School student Tyrrance Sanders’ face lights up when he talks about his job.

“I love it,” Sanders said. “That’s why I really wanted to come. It’s really good to me.”

He works in the x-ray and cancer center at Forrest General Hospital.

“I help the patients in the cancer center that come out and in the car... help them with their wristband and upstairs, downstairs; whatever they need, I get it,” he said.

It’s all part of Project SEARCH - a program helping students with intellectual disabilities prepare for life after high school.

“It’s strictly work-based,” said Heather Reid, a Project SEARCH Instructor. “So, they’re outside of the typical classroom, and we come to the hospital full-time. Our entire day is spent here at Forrest General in the workforce learning different department skills and abilities that they can take to a future job.”

Isaiah Rawls is a recent Petal High School graduate and a Project SEARCH student. He helps patients in the dialysis unit.

“They teach me how to be a better like... it’s almost like I’m experiencing more than I do in the outside world,” Rawls said. “So, I’m learning more about being responsible and taking care of each and every other patient and stuff like that.”

Some of the responsibility skills he learns include being on time and dressing appropriately.

“They learn a lot about communication, like proper etiquette, proper workplace skills, where that’s different from the hallways of the high school,” Reid said. “They have to come and, you know, have an actual co-worker where they have to have like adult conversation, and they’ve got to learn proper phone etiquette, you know, how to email their boss if they’re going to be out that day.”

However, Project SEARCH is about more than just learning how to work. It also helps students like Draven DuBois, a Petal High School student, build lasting relationships.

“I enjoy it a lot and my friends, and I’m thankful that... that I get to be here throughout the day,” DuBois said.

Project SEARCH students interview at the end of the school year before joining the program.

For more information, click here.

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