FORREST CITY - Charnette Freeman said she loves going to work every day and the children she works with love having her there as well.
Freeman applied for Project SEARCH® Arkansas in the fall of 2015. Project SEARCH® Arkansas is implemented in partnership between ACCESS Group, Inc. and Arkansas Rehabilitation Services (ARS) that is designed to prepare young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities for competitive integrated employment. After successfully participating in interviews and assessments, she was selected to participate in the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Project SEARCH® site fall 2016, graduating May 2017.
The ACCESS staff worked with her family and other stakeholders to secure competitive integrated employment for Freeman in her home community. Forrest City School District hired her to work in their pre-school program in August of 2017.
“I love my job,” Freeman said. “I always knew what I wanted to do; I wanted to work with kids.”
Freeman who is a 2010 graduate of Forrest City High School loves being able to work with children in her home community, a fact not lost on the school district. “Programs like Project SEARCH® are amazing, and when Charnette applied for the job I thought it was an excellent opportunity for someone from our community to be able to come back and work in the school district,” said Dr. Tiffany Hardrick, Superintendent of the Forrest City School District.
From teaching shapes and colors to fixing lunches to wiping tears, Charnette loves all aspects of her job, and her enthusiasm is evident to anyone who sees her.
“I had the benefit of serving on the interview team that interviewed Ms. Freeman and observed her during the nine-month Project SEARCH® training and witnessed her growth during those times,” said Judy Smith, Transition Director of Special Projects at the Arkansas Department of Career Education. “Observing her at work, was an absolutely joyful experience, the holistic human growth, and development I witnessed on her job were so pronounced, it seemed unshakeable. She always presented herself as kind, graceful, mild-mannered young lady but achieving employment seems to have had a tremendous impact on her as a person.”
Freeman has just signed her contract for her second year at the school and is looking forward to continuing to grow and learn and give back.
(Photo: Charnette Freeman, Project SEARCH® Graduate, with children in her home community of Forrest City.)