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Project SEARCH A Program Of Potential

Marquize Boykin, a Project SEARCH intern, mixes alfredo sauce in preparation for lunch at the University Community Center food court at the University of West Georgia.

CARROLLTON, GA – A partnership designed to help Carrollton High School students transition successfully to the workplace following high school is showing exceptional progress halfway through the school year,  Dr. Mark Albertus, superintendent of Carrollton City Schools, announced at Thursday’s Carrollton Board of Education work session.

The program, called Project SEARCH,  is a transition program designed for students with disabilities.  The partnership between Carrollton City Schools and the University of West Georgia is a business-led, school-to-work initiative that includes classroom instruction, career exploration and job-skills training, all focused on providing the foundation for a successful work experience. 

“I can’t say enough about how pleased I am with the program’s implementation,” said Albertus. “Even though it is in its first year, the growing pains have been minimal. It is a true partnership with total buy-in from all involved. We really appreciate the University of West Georgia for its willingness to partner with us.”

Five CHS students are interning with UWG Dine West, the university’s dining services department, learning valuable work skills as they are mentored by dedicated employees who are passionate about seeing the students succeed. But Project SEARCH is more than workplace immersion; classroom instruction is a large part of the program with a focus on the soft skills needed to become a successful employee.

Led by long-time Carrollton City Schools teacher Kristi Simpson, who serves as coordinator of the program, the students first report to a classroom space in the University Community Center each morning to work on employment skills for about an hour of their day.  Classroom activities are designed around these focus areas: Team building, workplace safety, communication, presentation and interview skills, money management, health and wellness, and their ultimate goal – how to find and keep a rewarding job.

The program’s design includes three, 10-week work internships where students work five hours a day with a 30-minute lunch break. Some of the work internships for this school year have included UWG Dine West areas such as the UCC Market Fresh Deli and downstairs food court, East Commons Dining, Z-6 Dining, and concessions at the university’s Coliseum. The interns also have had the opportunity to venture to community work sites off campus to expand their experiences.

Albertus said while the obvious goal for the students is to secure employment in rewarding jobs,  Project SEARCH is more than that.

“As a former principal, I have witnessed first hand the anxiety of parents who were concerned about their child’s future once they leave the comfort of Carrollton High School,” said Albertus. “Project SEARCH will allow these students to continue their learning  through the deliberate, results-oriented focus of the program.”

“Through Project SEARCH, we are helping students develop valuable skills upon which they can build successful careers. That is the top priority for both Carrollton City Schools and the University of West Georgia," said UWG President Kyle Marrero. “Both institutions are committed to serving the complete and diverse range of student needs. By working together through this combined purpose, we are better able to serve our community.”

Albertus agreed. “It is hoped Project SEARCH can bring about a change in attitudes and expectations in workplace culture once businesses see how valuable a well-skilled, well-trained employee who happens to have a disability can be for their team,” he said. 
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Topics : Education