Nine PWCS Students Graduate from Project SEARCH Internship

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Provided by PWCS

Didlake Inc., a nonprofit that connects people with disabilities to employment and community engagement opportunities, announces the graduation of the 2023-24 Project SEARCH internship class at UVA Health Prince William Medical Center. The nine graduates are Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) students with disabilities in their last year of high school. The graduation was held on June 3.

“Project SEARCH is an incredible program made possible through business and agency partners. This work-based learning program provides internship opportunities that often lead to competitive employment. This program models the value of inclusion in the workplace and greater community and is an invaluable opportunity for our students,” said Dr. Ashley Reyher, PWCS associate superintendent of special education.

UVA Health Prince William Medical Center hosts Project SEARCH, an international program that prepares people with disabilities aged 18 to 21 for success in competitive integrated employment. The Project SEARCH program at UVA Health Prince William Medical Center is a collaborative effort between Didlake, UVA Health Prince William Medical Center, PWCS and DARS.
As the employment services partner at UVA Health Prince William Medical Center and three other Project SEARCH sites, Didlake provides on-site skills training and, upon successful graduation, one-on-one job coaching to help interns find employment. Throughout the nine-month program, interns gain professional development by expanding on their respective skill sets and seeking support from staff.
“This was my third year doing Project SEARCH, and every year is different in a good way.  Every year we see growth and maturity. This year had exceptional growth. The interns came in shy and unsure of themselves and left with their heads held high with confidence,” said Theresa Polk, Didlake employment specialist III. “The entire team — UVA Health Prince William Medical Center, Didlake, Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), and Prince William County Public Schools — put their heart and soul into making sure the interns left with real-world basic job skills that will transfer to any job of their choosing.”
The interns completed rotations in eight departments, including Guest Services, Patient Registration, Food Services, Engineering, Housekeeping, Waste, Linens and Patient Transport. The first rotations started at the end of September, and the interns completed three rotations, about three months each, throughout the year.

“The dedication and hard work from the interns throughout the year has resulted in the acquisition of new skills, increased confidence and enhanced independence,” said Stacy Chapman, Didlake director of employment services. “Project SEARCH represents a valuable partnership. We thank DARS and PWCS. Special appreciation is reserved for UVA Health Prince William Medical Center, which has provided a work environment that equips students with vital employability skills, preparing interns for the workforce.”

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