LITTLE ROCK – Since 2014, when the first group of interns graduated from Project SEARCH®, it is nearly impossible to find a dry eye during the closeout ceremony. Each participant gives an emotional tribute of thanks to the people they believe played an important role to reaching the milestone.
“I began to think my disability didn’t make me the right fit. Little did I know at the time that this is where I belonged,” said Bryan Purifoy, who completed the Project SEARCH® program at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Project SEARCH® is fully funded by Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, a division of the Arkansas Department of Career Education. It is a nine-month innovative job training program for young adults with disabilities. In Little Rock, interns completed three, ten-week rotations at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children’s Hospital to gain necessary skills to obtain competitive employment. UAMS was the first site for the Project SEARCH® in Arkansas. Now, models have been implemented at CHI St. Vincent in Hot Springs, Ouachita County Medical Center in Camden, and St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro.
“Our state needs Project SEARCH®,” said Alan McClain, Commissioner for Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, at the UAMS graduation ceremony. “The world needs Project SEARCH®, and I am so thankful for your commitment to see it through and to graduate and to help promote Project SEARCH® throughout the world. You’re going to impact so many people.”
Parents expressed their thanks to Project SEARCH® as well.
“[To] the teachers and job coaches who have worked with our young people every day, supporting, coaching, encouraging, correcting, advocating, you will always have a special place in our hearts,” said Carolyn Prickett, the mother of a Project SEARCH® graduate.
Project SEARCH® boasts of placing more than ninety six percent of interns into jobs. Many of them already have a job by the time they finish the program.
Samuel Langston, who completed the UAMS model, has a full-time job at the Dillard’s Distribution Center.
“Project SEARCH® has helped me pursue my dreams to becoming independent while having a disability. It helped me to become capable of accomplishing things that I didn’t see myself doing,” Langston said.
Bryan Purifoy’s emotional testimony about Project SEARCH® ended with a celebration. After years of searching for a job, he finally has one – at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Thanks to the success of Project SEARCH®, I have successfully gained employment at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. For the first time in my life, I no longer qualify for low-income assistance. Without you, I would not be employed at the greatest place in the world.