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Greenville, N.C. – Project SEARCH, an educational program offered at ECU Health Medical Center, is proud to announce nine students recently graduated from the program: Camarion Allred, Jordan Bell, Kevin Caudle, Caitlyn Ferry, Region Jenkins, Nicholas Tripp, Xavier Vaughan-Holliday, Eric Williams and Maxwell Wilson. Project SEARCH is a one-year internship program for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities during their last year of high school with the goal of providing real-world practical skills and increasing the chances of competitive employment.

“ECU Health is very proud to host Project SEARCH to bring educational opportunities to everyone in the East,” said Doris Hill, Project SEARCH coordinator at ECU Health. “This program gives students the opportunity to learn job skills that can be applied after graduation and brings diversity to our organization and the local workforce. We are proud of the tremendous growth of our nine graduates throughout the program, and we are all very proud of their accomplishments.”

The nine 2024 Project SEARCH students sit together during their graduation at the Monroe Center in Greenville.
The nine 2024 Project SEARCH students sit together during their graduation at the Monroe Center in Greenville.

The Project SEARCH program at ECU Health Medical Center began in 2015 through partnerships with Pitt County Schools, RHA Health Services and the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Students complete internships in various departments at the hospital, including the ECHO Lab, Endoscopy Center, Environmental Services, SurgiCenter, hospital cafeterias, Hospitality and the Neuroscience Intermediate Unit.

“Project SEARCH gives our students support to transition into the workforce through skills development and a customized job search in the second half of the program,” said Katie Houmard, Project SEARCH instructor. “This program grows confidence and independence in all our students, and many of our graduates have gained competitive employment in our community. I am so proud of all our students and am excited to see them continue to grow and become employed.”

The employment rate for youth with disabilities is about 60 to 70 percent less than youth without disabilities, according to the Office of Disability Employment Policy. Project SEARCH has proven results with a 65 percent employment and 90 percent retention rate nationally.

Students who participate in the program are enrolled at various Pitt County high schools including J.H. Rose, D.H. Conley, South Central, Farmville Central, North Pitt and Ayden-Grifton. This is the ninth graduating class.

The Project SEARCH program began in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) and was developed as a means to meet entry-level employment needs at CCHMC, support their diversity initiative and partner with schools and community services agencies. Project SEARCH is now an international program with over 716 program sites in 48 states and 11 countries.