October 3, 2021
By Matt Robin
NESHOBA COUNTY, Miss. (WTOK) - Disabled people can face unique challenges finding work. Project SEARCH is a program that seeks to help disabled people find jobs.
Project SEARCH© Provided by Meridian WTOK-TV Project SEARCH
Project SEARCH is a program in which the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services teams with hospitals and schools to provide real-life work experience combined with training in employment and independent living skills to help young people with significant disabilities make successful transitions to productive adult life.
Neshoba County Hospital is the latest organization to host Project SEARCH.
“The director of emergency services, Erin Riley, knew that they were serving people with disabilities but they weren’t employing people with disabilities. You know, the entry-level jobs like stocking and cleaning. You know, surely they could come up with a program to help people with disabilities learn those skills so that they could get a job,” said Faye Culpepper, director of Project SEARCH.
“This is our first year, so we have three students this year. Obviously, we would like to build. We would like to have 6 to 8, I think, is probably a good number from the school that would work possibly with the hospital’s situation,” said Mindy Bowen, special education director for Neshoba County.
This is the first year that the Project SEARCH has been in Neshoba County, and it is helping local disabled people to learn new skills. For a disabled person, having a job and independence can be a life-changer.
“Since 2018 when we did our first Project SEARCH program with University of Mississippi Medical Center and Rankin County School District we have graduated 91. And out of those 57 are employed whether it’s at the host business or out in the community. We’re seeing outcomes. We’re seeing young adults with disabilities be productive. You know they come in, they are unsure. They have low self-esteem, very little eye contact. But when they finish Project SEARCH, they are so proud of themselves,” said Culpepper.
She added, “Our interns are learning valuable skills. They are learning those skills to be a productive adult and that’s what it’s all about. You know we have seen so many young adults literally grow up in a year. They get their driver’s license and get a vehicle. They are just like everyone else.”
MDRS along with Neshoba County Hospital and Neshoba County School District are making a difference in the lives of young disabled people.
If you would like to host or to help with Project SEARCH in any way, visit mdrs.ms.gov to sign up.
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