Eight students graduated earlier this week from the Project SEARCH program, all boasting employment thanks to the partnership between the College Station school district and Baylor Scott & White.
The program was established to help students transition into the workforce through a series of 10-week internships with the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in College Station.
Special education students between the ages of 18 and 22 are selected for the program following an application and interview process.
“They really get to try three departments, and we try to make those different so they get a different experience and help them kind of find their niche,” Project SEARCH Instructor Darren White said.
Kendall Parker, director of guest services at Baylor Scott & White, said each student’s likes and dislikes are taken into consideration when working to place them in a department at the hospital.
“We want to make sure that what we’re teaching that student is not just going to be skills that they would use here in a hospital, but also skills that they would be able to use in the community,” Parker said.
Mark Reinberg, a 2017 graduate of A&M Consolidated High School, came into the program with some prior personal experience in the department he was most interested in: physical therapy.
Reinberg, a lifelong lover of sports, served as an athletic trainer during his time as a student at both A&M Consolidated middle and high schools and was hoping to be the first intern in the hospital’s physical therapy department. He also was a patient in the department before his internship.
“The team and I were very excited to have Mark with us,” said Bailey Stein, a physical therapist at Baylor Scott & White. “Everyone knew him from being a patient, so everyone was really happy to have his hardworking, positive attitude in the clinic.”
Parker said that they were not only able to place Reinberg into the department as an intern, but because of his success, Baylor Scott & White was able to offer Reinberg a position with the department starting soon.
Reinberg assists the department with interacting with patients, preparing the gym for patients in the morning, cleaning up after patient care, pulling charts and restocking.
White, a College Station ISD teacher who has been working for the past three years with the program, said the partnership and support from the hospital are invaluable.
“A lot of our students without this program are not necessarily college-bound ... and it helps them get exposure,” White said. “A lot of times these students have some sort of barrier that might make it hard for them to get a job on their own, so we get to come in and show people what they can do without having to get hired to do it.”
For a fifth year, Project SEARCH can boast that 100% of students who completed the program have accepted employment either in the hospital or in the community, White said. The students continue to receive support for 90 days after beginning their jobs from Project SEARCH alongside the Brazos Valley Center for Independent Living and the Texas Workforce Commission to ensure that they are secure in their new position.
“From the experience we’ve had all year, this is the best thing we’ve ever done,” Mark’s mother, Nell Reinberg, said. “It’s rippled through our whole family. It’s just been awesome.”