Project SEARCH selects seven interns

from The Russellville Courier
by Emily Srader, newsclerk@couriernews.com
10:00 AM, Thursday, July 06 2017 | 2721 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Project SEARCH interns and sponsors

    Project SEARCH recently hosted its launch party for its first Russellville intern class at Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center.

Dustin Emerson, associate director of employment and day programs at Friendship Community Care, gave an overview of the program's development since internship applications were gathered in January.

Emerson and others have called schools in the Arkansas River Valley to inform them about the internship program for young adults with a variety of developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Since the time applications were received, applicants were interviewed and seven were selected to become interns: Cassandra Clsunch, Lakin Grinder, Richard Hausmann, Bethany Johnson, Kord Lewis, Alexis Pope and Kaleigh Reddell.

The interns each told a member of the Project SEARCH team what they were most excited to accomplish while participating in the internship. Some interns’ responses were: Hausmann is most excited about the knowledge he can get from his experience with Project SEARCH.Lewis is excited to learn, meet new people and make friends.Pope is most excited about working in the medical field. Pope has enjoyed anything that has to do with hospitals, and can't wait to get started.Emerson expressed his appreciation to members of project's steering committee for their contributions to the internship program.

Steering committee members include: Liz Falk, Project SEARCH international program specialist; Katie Baker, director of employment and day programs at Friendship Community Care; Tiffany Hefley, Friendship Community Care; Theresa White, Friendship Community Care; Dr. Deandriea Bass-Carrigan, Arkansas Rehabilitation Services; Amanda Crawford, Arkansas Rehabilitation Services; Sharon Mohammed, Arkansas Department of Human Services; Carrie Tuttle, ARCH Ford Education Services Cooperative; Brenda Harrison, Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center; and Connie Gregg, director of human resources at Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center.

Gregg gave an overview of Saint Mary's involvement with the project and announced directors of the departments the students will work with.

"What this program has the opportunity to do with the interns and with their families is unbelievable," Gregg said.

Gregg has raised a child who is "challenged." She said she would give anything if there was a program in the community that gave her child the same opportunity that Project SEARCH has given to the interns.

Gregg said she was nervous about asking other department directors to participate in Project SEARCH.

"They [directors] embraced it, and they were excited to have all of the interns here," she said.

The department directors have already found duties for the participants in the program to do, according to Gregg.

The interns will rotate within the departments at the hospital for 10 weeks.

Department directors include Daniel Bessette, director of hospitality services; Bridget Davis, director of surgical services; Steve Olson, director of engineering; Linda Tapp, director of materials management; and Barbara Downes, controller and director of accounting.

Jim Davidson, Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center's chief executive officer, gave a short speech about his eagerness to be involved with Project SEARCH.

"My mother was an educator, and she started her career educating and learning from the people who in life's circumstances can get passed off," he said.

"I'm so pleased to do this for this organization. Our mission statement is we bring health to life through people caring for people. And this, if anything, exemplifies that, but I'm going to turn that on its head because I don't approach this engagement with Cassandra, Lakin, Richard, Bethany, Kord, Alexis and Kaleigh as though we are here to educate them. They are here to connect us to our purpose and to our mission. To whatever degree we give to them, I am confident, because of what I've learned through my mother, that it pales in comparison to what they will give to us."

Russellville Mayor Randy Horton gave a short speech about his thoughts about Project SEARCH and its impact in Russellville.

Horton's daughter has high-functioning autism.

"I know a little about Project SEARCH, because my daughter is a client at MARVA, a little different way they go about it, but y'all are trying to solve the same issue," Horton said.

Horton said he thought that Project SEARCH would have a positive impact on the Russellville area, and thanked all of the directors and steering committee members for their involvement.

Baker stressed how Friendship wants the interns to be treated just like any other employee in each department.

Baker said that the staff at Friendship hopes the intern success rate will be as successful as Little Rock's Project SEARCH programs, which have achieved a 90 percent intern success rate or above.

The interns' first day will be Aug. 14

Read more: The Courier - Your Messenger for the River Valley - Project SEARCH selects seven interns