Photo: The Project SEARCH interns in their bright orange shirts – make sure you welcome them when you see them out and about.
If you’ve visited Mission Hospital or 1 Hospital Drive in the past few months, chances are you’ve seen a group of folks wearing bright orange shirts. Mission Health is proud to welcome the participants in Project SEARCH – 11 interns, their instructor and their job coach – for the 2016-17 school year.
Project SEARCH is an international program with about 400 sites around the world, but this year represents its very first time in Asheville. A partnership between Mission Health, The Arc of North Carolina, A-B Tech, NC Vocational Rehabilitation and Smoky Mountain MCO, Project SEARCH is a one-year internship program for students with developmental disabilities. Its goal is to help the students, who range in age from 18 to 30, achieve their goal of securing meaningful, competitive employment.
Participants were selected through a rigorous application process and then began the program with a three-week “boot camp” at A-B Tech. This included completing the onboarding process to work at Mission. Ten departments throughout Mission Hospital and the Mission Health home office are serving as job sites, including Quality and Safety, WorkWell, Health Information Management, Food & Nutrition Services, Surgical Services, Guest Services, Patient Registration, Radiology, Behavioral Health and the Child Development Center.
“Some of the roles are more clerical in nature,” said Emily Danciu-Grosso, Project SEARCH instructor. “Others are more focused on interacting with patients and the public.” Throughout the course of the program, which generally follows the A-B Tech school year schedule, the interns will rotate through three different job sites, spending 10-12 weeks in each. “This model is designed to help the interns develop several skills that will help them build their careers,” said Danciu-Grosso, “and by trying different things, they are more able to discover their passion and calling.”
The interns begin and end each day in a classroom at 1 Hospital Drive. They meet with Danciu-Grosso and their job coach, and use the time to debrief, share challenges and successes, and create a community with their fellow students while they are all having similar experiences. They also have specific classroom lessons with topics like money management, interview skills, body language and appropriate professional attire.
Danciu-Grosso said there has been tremendous interest from throughout Mission and the community, now that the program is underway here. “The ‘buzz’ has been pretty amazing,” she said, adding that the Project SEARCH founder conducted a site visit soon after the program started this summer. Danciu-Grosso noted that the success of Project SEARCH overall relies on interns securing relevant job placement after the program.
Meanwhile, she said she’s impressed by how the host departments are doing so much to include the interns in their day-to-day activities, from hosting birthday parties for them, to taking them with the department on lunch outings, to supporting them through personal times of grief and loss. “This is such an opportunity for these interns to really expand in terms of their skills on and off the job,” she said.
To learn more about the overall Project SEARCH organization, visit ProjectSEARCH.us.