College & Workforce Readiness Photos

Giving Students With Disabilities a Career Opportunity

By Education Week Photo Staff — June 04, 2015 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
Maritza Rivera, 19, suits up before going to the operating room to receive and deliver supplies at Novant Prince William Medical Center in Manassas, Va. Project SEARCH allows students with disabilities from Manassas City schools to spend their last high school year in job training at the hospital instead of their regular school for job training.

For many students with disabilities, leaving high school means an abrupt end to the supports that they and their families have come to rely on. Project SEARCH, a nationwide partnership between school districts and local employers, seeks to ease that transition by placing students in job-training opportunities, often in hospitals and government offices. Education Week reporter Christina Samuels and photographer Lexey Swall report on a program in Manassas, Va., for the 2015 Diplomas Count special report that examines life after high school for students with disabilities.

Lakisha Hogan, 23, the first intern hired through Project SEARCH three years ago, stocks shelves at Novant Prince William Medical Center.

For the past four years, Novant Health Prince William Medical Center has employed young adults from the 7,400-student Manassas, Va., district. A teacher from the district is on site to work with students in the program, which currently has positions for up to 10 students per academic year. The students have learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and autism.

Project SEARCH intern Andrea Sorto, 19, left, helps nurse Lisa Whitmer care for 3-day-old Brooke Woods in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The hospital internships are unpaid, but otherwise the students are treated like regular employees–wearing uniforms, clocking in and out, and taking breaks with the other employees in the hospital. They work preparing patient rooms, stocking supplies in the emergency room, managing medical records, and transporting patients.
“This program definitely helps the students figure out exactly what they like to do,” said Nicole Nakamura, a Manassas teacher who works with the Project SEARCH participants.

Project SEARCH intern Demetrius Wade, 18, waits to transport a patient.
Project SEARCH intern Demetrius Wade talks to Lamonte Wright, a cardiac sonographer, after transporting patient Robin Richards.

Several of the students have been so successful that they’ve seamlessly transitioned into full-time employment at the hospital.
“We’ve really seen students become adults overnight,” said Emily Gephart, the director of employment services for Didlake, an Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit that contracts with the state of Virginia to manage Project SEARCH in Manassas. “Along with having disabilities, some have pretty challenging socio-economic barriers working against them. This is the first time they’ve been held accountable for a job.”

A version of this article first appeared in the Full Frame blog.

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness How International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Programs Compare
Both the IB and AP programs allow students to earn college credit in high school. Though how the program operate can differ.
1 min read
Marilyn Baise gives a lecture on Feng Shui and Taoism in her world religions class at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Fla., on Jan. 23, 2024.
Marilyn Baise gives a lecture on Feng Shui and Taoism in her world religions class at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Fla., on Jan. 23, 2024.
Zack Wittman for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness Dartmouth and Yale Are Backtracking on ‘Test-Optional’ Admissions. Why That Matters
The Ivy League schools say test scores help them make better decisions, but most schools are keeping tests optional.
6 min read
Image of a bank of computers in a library.
baona/E+
College & Workforce Readiness States Are Making Work-Based Learning a Top Policy Priority
Interest in career and technical education continues to grow in schools nationwide, new report shows.
3 min read
Kermir Highsmith, left, Dynasty McClurk, center, and Nevaeh Williams, work in their culinary arts class at Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Dec. 13, 2022.
Kermir Highsmith, left, Dynasty McClurk, center, and Nevaeh Williams, work in their culinary arts class at Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Dec. 13, 2022.
Nate Smallwood for Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness High School Students Think They Are Ready for College. But They Aren't
Four in 5 students say they're academically ready for college. Their test scores say otherwise.
5 min read
Photo of pensive young man on bench.
iStock / Getty