Project SEARCH equips youth with disabilities with job, life skills

Goodwill Industries of the Valleys runs educational, training program

By Brittny McGraw - Anchor

ROANOKE, Va. - A program in our area is working to equip young people with disabilities with the on-the-job training and life skills they'll need to succeed.

Project SEARCH: Carilion Clinic is a nine-month program that uses classroom instruction and internships at Carilion Clinic to achieve that. Goodwill Industries of the Valleys runs the program.

"They learn soft skills, financial skills, on-the-job training," said Bill Gillispie, the employment specialist with Project SEARCH. "They work with mentors in departments throughout Carilion Clinic, learning how to be a part of the community and learn job skills."

Students from the cities of Roanoke and Salem and Roanoke and Botetourt counties spend most of their time in the program at 18 internship sites within Carilion Clinic in a variety of departments.

"They do the same task that the other people within the department are doing," Gillispie said. "They go to lunch with the people that they work with, and then, at the end of the day, they come back for a wrap-up session." 

Students with disabilities who are in their last year of high school or have recently graduated are eligibile for the program. Gillispie said the program allows participants to shine.

"We are able to take our students and focus on their abilities and grow with that so they become the most positive, dynamic individual they can be throughout life," Gillispie said.

Isiah Atkinson, a Project SEARCH participant and Hidden Valley High School graduate, said he enjoys the work he does as a part of the program.

"I wanted to work in the hospital, and I thought this would be a great opportunity," Atkinson said.

Atkinson goes floor to floor at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, collecting unused medical supplies that can be donated to outside organizations. He said Project SEARCH has helped him to grow.

"It has helped me with my confidence," Atkinson said.

Students interested in Project SEARCH must be at least 18 years old, have completed high school credits necessary for graduation, be able to communicate effectively and have independent daily living skills. For a full list of eligibility requirements, visit https://www.goodwillvalleys.com/work-and-training-services/youth-services/project-search/. For more information on Project SEARCH, email info@goodwillvalleys.com.

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