Young adults celebrate breaking down barriers

Virginia

Eleven graduates have completed the 180-day Project Search Program at Winchester Medical Center, where they got the opportunity to take part in three separate internships in various hospital departments.

“I always feel like a dad. I get emotional thinking about it. They came in as kids, and I still call them kids even when we’re up there on stage with them, but they’re young adults now,” said Project Search skills trainer Joey Dunlap. 

Project Search gives young adults with developmental disabilities the opportunity to learn job skills that they can use to gain competitive employment in their community.

“They’ve learned so much, and they’ve grown so much, and they’ve learned how to shake everyone’s hand and how to look people in the eyes, and how to manage their money, and go and buy lunch. Some things we take for granted,” said Dunlap. 

Graduate Brett Dickey spent one of his internships working at the hospital’s emergency department, and looks forward to a future in that field. 

“Stocking, making sure patients, I push patients outside, I put them in the patient’s room…Like, ‘Hey, you need anything? You want a blanket? Lean your seat back, you want me to go fix you some food?'” asked Dickey.

Seven of the 11 graduates have already secured jobs.

“A lot do have jobs lined up already, and some of them actually had a choice of a job,”  said Pam Brannon of Project Search. 

Graduate Claire Cook will soon be working for Winchester Medical Center. Cook said she was nervous before joining the program, but she’s glad she went through with it.

“I as a little nervous. I never heard about project search before, but I think I really liked being in project search,” said Cook. 

 Dickey says he’s hopeful for what’s to come for himself and his fellow graduates. 

“It’ll be a great future for me, and for everybody else. I hope they have the best success. ” Dickey says. 

Project Search-Winchester teams up with NW Works, area public schools and the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative services to give students this opportunity.

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