Project SEARCH helps young adults with cognitive disabilities gain career skills

Project SEARCH, a nine-month internship program for recent high school graduates with cognitive disabilities, held a commencement ceremony for its eighth class June 4 at Christiana Care’s John H. Ammon Medical Education Center.

Joined by their Christiana Care instructors, mentors and families, the interns celebrated completion of the training program that provided classroom instruction, mentors and three rotations in different departments at Christiana Care.

Drewry Nash Fennell, Esq., chief officer of strategic communication and development, recognizes the achievement of the 2018 graduating class of Project SEARCH.

“I have had my challenges at Project SEARCH, yet by keeping an open mind and accepting feedback provided by the staff, I feel as if I have gained new skills and grew as an individual,” said graduating intern Drew Kortanek. “I have gained the skills necessary to transfer over to a functional productive job. This program is essential to life itself because I learned that the choices I make will define me for the rest of my life. So, on that note, goodbye Project SEARCH, hello employment!”

Since 2011, Project SEARCH has trained 64 interns with cognitive disabilities.

“The 10 graduates in this year’s cohort are incredibly inspiring,” said Drewry Nash Fennell, Esq., Christiana Care’s chief officer of strategic communication and development. “Their work, and that of their families, Project SEARCH students, leaders and coworkers truly exemplifies Christiana Care’s value of “We Serve Together guided by our values, Excellence and Love.”

This year’s interns gained experience working with teams including the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, Clinical Engineering, Employee Health, Environmental Services, Facilities Maintenance, Food and Nutrition, iLead, Materiel Distribution & Logistics, Operating Room, Patient Escort, Patient Guides, Pharmacy, Prep and Holding, Property Management, Sterile Processing and Surgical Materiel Distribution.

“A supportive team and partnership are necessary to help this group of energetic young adults gain knowledge, strength, courage and experience,” said Project SEARCH Instructor Angela Hansen, NBCT, Red Clay School District on-site faculty member for the program.

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

Also on hand to celebrate at the 2018 Project SEARCH graduation were Mervin Daugherty, Ph.D., superintendent, Red Clay School District; Dana Beckton, director, Diversity and Inclusion; Robert McMurray, MBA, vice president of Finance, Supply Chain, and corporate controller, and other Christiana Care and Red Clay staff and friends.

“I liked being in Project SEARCH because it gave me a chance to learn something new every day,” said Jerry Green. “But most of all I liked spending it with the people I love, my Project SEARCH family!”

From left, Project SEARCH 2018 internst Jordan Watson, Kevin Hawkins, Jaden Santiago-Johnson, Rebecca Butler, Miara Battle, Danielle Alphonse, Jerry Green, Malik Skinner, Jade Torres, Drew Kortanek, and faculty leader Angie Hansen

Photo gallery: Project Search 2018 graduation