Project SEARCH

Blake Scott, an intern with the Project SEARCH program, finishes filling out an address label on a package Thursday at the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center to be delivered within the hospital.

Every school day, 18-year-old Blake Scott drives himself to the Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in College Station, where he works as an intern in the supply chain services department.

From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Scott, who participates in the Project Search High School Transition program, puts labels on and distributes cardboard boxes, sweeps the floors and takes out the trash — simple tasks that teach the A&M Consolidated High School graduate important employability skills.

Scott is one of three students in the College Station school district who takes part in the international program designed to prepare students with disabilities for competitive employment by providing real-life work experience as they transition from school to adulthood.

Although the students in the program have completed their high school academic requirements, they continue to work closely with the school district, as well as the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Brazos Valley Center for Independent Living and Region Six Education Service Center to receive additional support for the next step in their lives.

According to Allison Hollis, secondary instructional coordinator for special education for the College Station school district, the students go through three 10-week internships — which are locally offered at Baylor Scott and White — to acquire skills that can be applied to related positions in the community.

“This takes an intern and puts them in a real, live situation to learn transferable skills,” she said. “The majority of the interns don’t work in a hospital after they graduate from Project Search. They work at other places in the community, but the skill sets that they’ve learned happened to be at the hospital.”

Students also undergo a classroom component of the internship in addition to completing the required workload for the position.

Special-education teachers and job coaches work with the interns on their employability and functional skills for about an hour a day. Currently, Scott said he and his classmates have been practicing the process of obtaining a job.

“I’ve been working on my interview skills,” he said. “[I’ll use them] maybe when I’m done with this.”

Production manager Beverly Kellman, who oversees intern Johnnie Jefferson, 19, in the hospital’s food service department, said the hospital does not hire the interns to just complete a task, but rather ensure that they are learning and retaining important skills.

“The whole thing is to give him experience that he can actually use in an environment,” she said. “We’re not hiring him to be a cleaner; we’re trying to get him to be involved in everything that is going on. We have to make sure that he is skilled when he’s done.”

After the students complete their three internships, Hollis said they get to provide their input on where they would be interested in pursuing paid employment. Many local businesses, including H.E.B., CHI St. Joseph, Lowe’s, Baylor Scott and White and the school district, offer job opportunities to the students — typically with more hours and higher pay because of the skills learned through Project Search.

With the many components involved in the Project Search process, Jefferson said he just enjoys coming in and working hard each day with his co-workers.

“I like everyone,” he said. “I like staying busy.”

For more information about the Project Search High School Transition program, go to projectsearch.us/ourprogram/highschooltransition.aspx.

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