Some of our Greenville Project SEARCH interns.

Project SEARCH: Empowering Students Through Their Uniqueness

Jan 5 2022

“Help wanted” – two words you see almost everywhere you go these days. But did you know our ministry has a program that helps address this growing need for workers while also giving students with disabilities an opportunity to shine?

Project SEARCH was founded by two employees at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996. It has since expanded nationally and came to our Bon Secours Greenville market in 2017. Through a partnership with the Greenville County School District and South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation, Project SEARCH gives high school-aged students with disabilities on-the-job training through workplace immersion in the hospital environment.

“The intent of the program is not for these students to be hired by the hospital directly, but rather for them to gain necessary skills and experience for competitive employment wherever they seek it after their time with the program ends,” Cheryl Johnson, Project SEARCH workforce coordinator, shares. “And the work they are doing in our hospital is not created for them. If they were not there to do the work, one of our employees would be responsible for doing it.”

The employment rate for all Project SEARCH sites in the country was 55 percent for the 2019-2020 intern class. Our Greenville market outperformed this with 80 percent of its class becoming employed upon graduation. Additionally, 100 percent of the health system’s most recent graduating class is currently employed.

“We want to continue inspiring and partnering with the local business community to build a world-class workforce where people are valued for their skills and talents, but also appreciated for their uniqueness,” Matt Caldwell, our Greenville market president, shares.

Until this year, every Project SEARCH class has included eight to 10 students from Greenville County Schools. However, the success of the program led to an expansion in 2021 that allows for as many as 20 interns to take part. Thanks to generous community donations through the Bon Secours St. Francis Foundation, we have been able to renovate existing office space and provide an interactive classroom learning environment for these students, The Joseph J. Pazdan Project SEARCH Center.

“We really wanted to be able to provide more meaningful experiences through more training rooms,” Kara Ozmint, a Project SEARCH instructor, explains. “So, we kept the classroom we had but added rooms that simulate what the emergency department looks like, what the linens department looks like, and so on.”

Our Project SEARCH program team members also have extra space to teach other important life skills now.

“We have a laundry room so interns can practice doing laundry, because a lot of them have not had that experience. We have a money management room. Many of our interns come into the program with a need for help and support in financial literacy, because they are seeking employment and need to understand how to budget,” Kara adds.

Bon Secours St. Francis Health System’s Project SEARCH program is now taking applications for the 2022-2023 school year. Currently, it is only open to students in the Greenville County School District.

For more information, contact The deadline to apply is Feb. 14.

Also, learn more about the health care services we offer at Bon Secours.

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