WINCHESTER, Va. - Project Search is a unique transition program for young adults who experience disabilities. It places students in real-world situations where they learn all aspects of gaining and maintaining a job.
"I think there's an image out there that students with disabilities can only do a few things, and a lot of that is volunteer stuff - they don't really have much to contribute. These 12 we have are contributing, and they know it." Chuck Ashby, Project Search, Instructor, said.
The students in Winchester Medical Center's first Project Search class are doing much more than volunteer work.
Project Search Intern Brendan Nutry starts his day at the hospital at 8 a.m. and sets up dozens of rooms for nurses to receive patients.
"I go in there to see if there's anything needed, like sheets or gowns, and then, I put the pillows in the pillowcases and turn the lights on so everything's is ready to go," said Nutry.
Nutry also stocks the hundreds of lab tubes the hospital goes through each day, delivers oxygen tanks and puts a smile on both his mentors' and the hospital patients' faces.
"What seems like [a] little task to some people really is a big task in the day of a tech or a nurse that they're stepping in to help with," Jennifer Murray, Winchester Medical Center, said.
Each student chosen for the program spends time in the Project Search classroom, learning appropriate work behavior, job skills, time management and more. Then, they do three job rotations lasting 10 weeks allowing them to find positions that best suit their preferences.
Project Search Instructor Chuck Ashby said the job training shows the students just what they're capable of.
"There's a lot of behind the scenes stuff that the students are learning. That's not in any book that we can teach," Ashby said.
At the end of the internship, there is a possibility that the students can continue working at the hospital in more permanent positions.
Nutry said that he's looking forward to a future full of helping people at the hospital.
The 12 Project Search interns are graduating from the program on June 1, 2018.