Project SEARCH opens doors for young people with cognitive disabilities

Daniel Gollie knew he wanted to work. But he didn’t have the opportunity to develop skills or learn what he enjoys doing until he enrolled in Project SEARCH, a nine-month unpaid internship for people age 18-21 with cognitive disabilities.

As part of their high school transition, Project SEARCH interns receive classroom instruction and complete three rotations in various departments at Christiana Care Health System.

Gollie found the right job for him on his second rotation, in Facilities Maintenance.

“It was such a great fit, learning to use tools, that I was able to stay on for my third rotation,” he said. “The people I met appreciated my help and being part of their team.”

Gollie, who is now employed at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, is one of nine students in the Project SEARCH Class of 2017. He and his classmates spoke at the sixth annual Project SEARCH graduation, June 5 at the John H. Ammon Medical Educational Center.

Tom Corrigan, executive vice president and CFO, praised the Project SEARCH graduates for having the courage to intern at Christiana Care.

“It takes some courage to come into a big place like Christiana Care,” said Tom Corrigan, executive vice president and CFO. “Our interns learn important skills, and we learn from them. It’s a two-way street.”

Mervin Daugherty, Ph.D., superintendent, Red Clay School District, encouraged the graduates to continue growing their skills as they begin their working lives.

“Success starts when you step outside your comfort zone,” Daugherty said. “This isn’t the end. We expect you to go out into the world and pay taxes.”

One of Christopher Lloyd’s rotations was in Surgical Material Distribution, where he gained self confidence by completing tasks on time.

“I stocked and reorganized almost 3,000 items,” Lloyd said. “I enjoyed coming to work every single day because my coworkers were nice to me. I asked for help when I needed it, and they were always happy to help me.”

Several interns spoke of the caring relationship they developed with Christiana Care staff during their rotations.

“The people I worked with in Prep and Holding took the time to answer my questions, even when they were busy,” said Adrianna Bolling. “I learned how important communication is. I learned that I am a hard worker and a leader, not a follower. I can’t wait to start working.”

Rachel Scurti said she enjoyed filing documents and copying papers in Employee Health. She was inspired to accomplish personal goals such as getting her driver’s license.

“I’ve come out of my shell,” she said.

To date, 19 Project SEARCH interns have been hired by Christiana Care. In the past two years, 100 percent of students have found jobs either in the health system or elsewhere. Departments who hosted students include the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, Clinical Engineering, Employee Health, Environmental Services, Facilities Maintenance, Food and Nutrition, iLead, Material Distribution & Logistics, Operating Room, Patient Escort, Patient Guides, Pharmacy, Prep and Holding, Property Management, Sterile Processing and Surgical Material Distribution.

Kendall Scott already has started working at Camp Bow Wow, a dog boarding business in Newark.

“I would never have been successful without Project SEARCH,” Scott said. “Today, I am a working man.”


In addition to Christiana Care and Red Clay, partners include the Delaware Department of Education, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Community Integrated Services, Autism Delaware and POW&R (Productive Opportunities for Work & Recreation).