September 11, 2015
By Alma Ellis
MS—For nine Hattiesburg High students, the first-day-of-school jitters were
different than for most seniors.
of starting their last year of secondary school studying customary classwork,
these students began a new pilot program in Mississippi called Project SEARCH
Southern Miss. On Monday, August 17, these students began a journey toward
independence, adulthood, and employment.
SEARCH Southern Miss is an eight-month training program that consists of daily
employment preparatory skills training, community development, mentoring
services and work internships. The goal is to increase the number of young
adults with intellectual/cognitive and other developmental disabilities to
obtain competitive, community-based employment.
SEARCH is driven by collaboration with strong Hattiesburg community partners.
The University of Southern Mississippi serves as the host business. The
Hattiesburg School District provides a full-time teacher. The Mississippi
Department of Rehabilitation Services supplies two job coaches, and the
Mississippi Division of Medicaid offers waiver services for long-term support.
SEARCH Southern Miss adds to the growing focus on improving employment
opportunities for Mississippians with disabilities. Mississippi will greatly
benefit from this program,” said Dr. Jerry R. Alliston, Community Education
Director for the Institute for Disability Studies (IDS) at The University of
Southern Mississippi. “Thanks to the Mississippi Council on Developmental
Disabilities, Mississippi is no longer one of the four states without a
has a longstanding history of establishing new programs and furthering
partnerships in the community. Hattiesburg High School has partnered with IDS
on several previous employment and leadership initiatives.
am extremely excited about Project SEARCH and the partnership it is affording
our students,” said Hattiesburg High School Principal Jermaine Brown, who chose
to serve a primary role in the first Mississippi SEARCH program. “With the help
of Project SEARCH, we can truly say that we are fostering career readiness for
all students including those with disabilities.”
Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services is proud to partner with the
Institute for Disability Studies at The University of Southern Mississippi to
help increase competitive integrated employment in the community for individuals
with disabilities,” said Executive Director Chris Howard, noting partnership
has been a key to this program. “Through Project SEARCH, a collaborative
training program will provide internship opportunities, workplace safety,
social skills awareness, and employability skills to transitioning students in
the Hattiesburg area to help them take important steps towards their careers.”
SEARCH ® began in 1996 when Erin Riehle, director of the Emergency Department
at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, took her frustration of
having high turnover jobs and turned it into a creative and innovative
employment program for people with disabilities, especially those with
intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Project SEARCH Southern Miss is the first
program in Mississippi, joining over 400 programs across the United States and
additional programs internationally.
more information on Project SEARCH Southern Miss, contact Project SEARCH
Coordinator Jin Joo Crosby at 601.266.6037. To learn more about the Institute
for Disability Studies, call 601.266.5163 or visit:
The coordination and development of the Project SEARCH Southern Miss
Program is funded through a grant from the Mississippi Council on Developmental