Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH Core Model Components

The sole definition of a successful outcome is competitive employment in an integrated setting for each Project SEARCH intern.

  • Employment in an integrated setting (that is, working alongside coworkers with and without disabilities).
  • Year-round work (not seasonal employment)
  • 16 hours/week or more
  • Minimum wage or higher

Project SEARCH is a business-led program. This means that students learn relevant, marketable skills while immersed in the business and those businesses are active partners, participating without subsidies.

True collaboration among partner agencies is essential. This leads to seamless transition services and sustainability through braided funding streams. True collaboration requires a willingness among partner organizations to share resources and adapt policies and procedures. The following are active partners:

  • Businesses
  • Education / Schools
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Community Rehabilitation Providers
  • Long-term Support Agencies
  • Families
  • Social Security Administration

The Program focus is on serving young adults with a variety of developmental disabilities (acquired before age 22 such as intellectual disability, visual impairment, hearing impairment, orthopedic impairment, autism, etc.).

Program participants experience total immersion in the workplace. Students are on site at the business each school day for a minimum of six hours for an entire academic year.

The partners provide consistent on-site staff including a special education teacher from the school district and job coaches (usually funded by Vocational Rehabilitation and a supported employment agency and/or the school).

Data is submitted to a national Project SEARCH database.

Program activities are tied to these federal IDEA (2004) Indicators:

  • 1 - Graduation
  • 2 - Dropout Rates
  • 5 - Least Restrictive Environment
  • 8 - Parent Involvement
  • 13 - Compliant (Quality) IEP's and Transition Goals
  • 14 - Post School Outcomes

Project SEARCH Leads to Success

Rodheem Tolbert stands with his supervisor Carl Miller. He is wearing surgical scrubs and is smiling.Rodheem Perry's first day as a Project SEARCH intern at Palmetto Parkridge hospital was not what he expected. "Come on," his mentor, Carl Miller calls, "you're going to help me move a patient." Calmly, Rodheem follows Miller's instructions: he dresses in surgical scrubs, enters an operating room, and they take the patient to recovery. "We call him 'Rodheem the dream,'" says his job coach. "Working here has made him realize how much he can do with his life."

The effect of Project SEARCH on the interns is dramatic. In high school, Judith Gillings didn't know what she wanted to do. "I didn't know what I was capable of," she explains. Her first internship is in the Intensive Care Unit, where her duties include delivering meals to patient rooms. It is difficult for her because she is shy. Her job coach gives her tips on posture, what to say, and making eye contact. Judith nervously walks into a room. "Hi. My name is Judith..." Today, instead of walking through the hospital and looking at her feet, Judith smiles with confidence as she waves to everybody. And one of the things she enjoys the most is interacting with patients.

Judith, Rodheem, and more than seven other interns have been hired by Palmetto Parkridge. Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge has hosted many Project SEARCH interns. The yearlong program, a partnership with The Arc of the Midlands, South Carolina Vocational Rehab and District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties schools, is designed to assist special needs students with learning valuable job skills with the goal of finding a job.

Project SEARCH graduates receive effective follow-along services to retain employment.

Each Project SEARCH program site has a licensing agreement signed with Project SEARCH Cincinnati through Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Participating Partners and Additional Resources

View additional resources in our Resource Directory.