Project SEARCH Empowers Students to ‘Go the Distance’ With Job Opportunities

Pratyush Pol shared dinner and stories with his family and two mentors from ChristianaCare’s Endoscopy Department during a celebration of his time as an intern with Project SEARCH, a school-to-work program hosted at ChristianaCare for young adults with disabilities.

Melissa MacMurray, BSN, RN, BS, PCCN, nurse manager of Endoscopy, said she has seen a transformation in interns like Pol as they go through the program.

“They often come to us and are kind of quiet and unsure,” MacMurray said. “But halfway through their time, you see such a change in their abilities to do the tasks assigned. Pratyush came to me and wanted to do more, and he was asking what more he could learn. Seeing that courage and that mindset that they can do it — that positivity is just so empowering.”

Pratyush Pol was among the nine interns who celebrated their time with Project SEARCH during an event on June 3 at the John H. Ammon Education Center.

Setting the bar higher

ChristianaCare has operated Project SEARCH since 2011 in partnership with Red Clay Consolidated School District in Delaware. The nine-month program is for young adults, aged 18 to 22, with disabilities.

Interns participate in three rotations of three months each, said Samantha Manchester of the Red Clay School District. “At the end of the program, the goal is competitive employment.”

This year’s nine interns worked with departments including Environmental Services, the mailroom, Institute for Learning, Leadership and Development (iLEAD), Textiles and the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.

ChristianaCare celebrated its Project SEARCH End of Year Ceremony with nine interns. Interns this year were Matson Miller, Daniel Jones, Jordan Wyatt, Emma McMullen, Pratyush Pol, Paige Williams, Hayden Wyttenbach, Joshua Grant and Aleah Morgan.

“We are very lucky with ChristianaCare,” Manchester said. “We have great partners and we have very involved departments.”

Pol worked with one of his mentors, Philip Curtis, RN, an endoscopy staff nurse, in the department’s GI lab, helping to clean bays and transport patients. Curtis said they repeatedly set the bar higher as Pol conquered the tasks they gave him.

“I love this guy,” Curtis said. “He was a lot of fun. He brought a lot of joy.”

Learning in a fast-paced environment

Emma McMullen enjoyed the fast-paced environment of Heart & Vascular Interventional Services (HVIS). Inspired by the nurses she encountered – and her mom, a nurse – she applied to the Patient Care Tech Residency program at ChristianaCare.

Project SEARCH intern Emma McMullen enjoyed the fast-paced environment of Heart & Vascular Interventional Services (HVIS).

“She has really thrived in this environment,” Manchester said. “She is really personable and easy to get along with. She has a real desire to go the distance.”

Building communication skills

Joshua Grant also loved his rotation with HVIS, where he alphabetized documents, assisted visitors and assembled overnight packs.

“I liked discharging patients from their room and bringing them downstairs to their cars,” Grant said. “I liked communicating with them, interacting with them.”

Project SEARCH intern Joshua Grant enjoyed his time working with HVIS. His mom, Paula, said the experience has helped build his communication skills.

During down time, Grant would ask if any of his colleagues needed help, always looking for something to do.

“I think it’s opened his communications skills up,” said his mom, Paula Grant. “Most kids, when you ask them questions, they respond, ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ ‘maybe.’ Now, he can have a full conversation.”

ChristianaCare has hosted Project SEARCH since 2011.

Remembering what’s important

Equipment Room Lead Weldon Rembert said he and his colleagues enjoyed their interactions with the interns, laughing and having fun. They kept them busy stocking isolation carts and patient care units, among other tasks.

“Project SEARCH helps us to help them,” Rembert said. “We are preparing them to go out into the work environment, so it’s important that they know what they’re getting into before they get out here.”

Hayden Wyttenbach shares his experiences as a Project SEARCH intern during a celebration at the Ammon Education Center.

During the end-of-year ceremony, Dorrell Green, superintendent of the Red Clay School District, wished the interns success in their future endeavors.

“We can learn so much from their resilience, their perseverance, their hard work, their dedication and the effort that they put in to learning a particular skill,” Green said. “We also take the opportunities that are afforded to us for granted – and they don’t – so this is a constant reminder of what’s important in life.”

Picking a favorite

After three rotations with Project SEARCH, Pol had to have a favorite, right? Perhaps it was the one with the Endoscopy department?

“Umm, no,” Pol said as Curtis and MacMurray grinned to hide their laughter.

“My favorite one was Textiles because I got to work on the machines there.”