Project SEARCH, Making a Difference!
In 2009, St. Joseph Hospital became the first organization in New Hampshire to offer Project SEARCH, a school-to-work program for people with developmental disabilities. This endeavor, the first of its kind in New England, is led by Coordinator Jamie Gregoire with assistance from Career Trainers Jennifer Cahill and Frederick Welsch from the PLUS Company in Nashua. This June we celebrate our ninth graduating class from the Project SEARCH program.
Project SEARCH provides total workplace immersion for high school students with disabilities in order to help them obtain meaningful employment in our community upon graduation. The program features a combination of classroom instruction, career exploration and job training in transferable skills. Interns learn new skills in three 10-week internships across more than 20 departments throughout the hospital. They gain real-world experience, with opportunities to explore different career paths within the healthcare sector and beyond.
“The energy and enthusiasm the Project SEARCH students bring to their departments, along with their commitment to their job responsibilities, are second to none,” according to Kathleen Rice Orshak, our Vice President of Mission & Ethics, who is the Project SEARCH Business Liaison. “The students,” she assures me, “thrive in their internships, and staff benefit immensely from the daily assistance of well-trained interns.”
The Project SEARCH program is a partnership between St. Joseph Hospital, the PLUS Company, Gateways Community Services, NH Vocational Rehabilitation and the Nashua School District. To date, 94% of Project SEARCH graduates have been successfully placed in jobs in the community. Graduates of the program continue to receive support from the PLUS Company during their work experience.
I believe this program enriches our lives, our work experience, and strengthens our relationship with the community. Whether it’s a clinical or administrative setting, the interns rapidly become part of the team, and the St. Joseph Hospital family. When I think of the mission of St. Joseph Hospital and our engagement with the community, Project SEARCH always comes immediately to mind.