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Virginia’s First Project SEARCH Program Prepares Teens with Disabilities for Jobs and Life 

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10 Peninsula Teens with Disabilities Gain Work Experience at Sentara CarePlex Hospital

Event: Sentara CarePlex Hospital Hosts End of Year Celebration
Date: Wednesday, June 9 from noon to 1:30 p.m.
Location: 3000 Coliseum Drive,
Conference Rooms B&C
Hampton, VA 2366

Hampton, VA (June 15, 2010) – Peninsula high school students with disabilities conclude a year-long work transition program called Project SEARCH launched at Sentara CarePlex Hospital, Virginia’s first of its kind.

Exactly 10 Newport News and Hampton high school students with disabilities gained first-hand work experience and skills training at Sentara CarePlex Hospital. For some, the experience was profound.

“Working in Materials Management changed me,” says 19-year-old Ronald Smith, Jr. who graduated from Big Bethel High School in 2009, and worked at Sentara CarePlex Hospital through Project SEARCH. “It changed my life by giving me so much responsibility; I became a real adult,” he continues.

Virginia’s first Project SEARCH program is a collaboration between Hampton City Schools, Newport News Public Schools, and Sentara CarePlex Hospital. Additional support was provided through Hampton/Newport News Community Services Board and the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services. Sentara plans to continue this community collaboration at Sentara CarePlex Hospital, while Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center and Sentara Norfolk General Hospital are launching similar Project SEARCH programs this fall.

Students at Sentara CarePlex Hospital concluded a year-long internship designed to teach employments skills and prepare them for making contributions in the work force. Job coaches and an instructor accompanied students daily to their job sites at Sentara CarePlex Hospital where students worked in roles such as nursing assistant, radiology tech assistant, rehabilitation aide, radiology assistant, respiratory aid, linen services worker, food and nutrition services worker, clerical assistant, environmental services worker, sterile processing aid and material associate assistant.

In an on-site classroom students studied budgeting, nutrition and other life skills while hospital rotations offered skills training like faxing, customer service, CPR, patient safety, and teamwork.

“These students have so much to offer. I think our staff has learned nearly as much from the students, as the students have learned from staff. We are honored to be part of this life-changing program,” says Debra Flores Sentara CarePlex Hospital administrator.

“This program has been very beneficial to my daughter. She’s learned real skills with the hope of finding a job in the future,” says Gwen Milholen whose 19-year-old daughter, Elizabeth participated. Elizabeth Milholen graduated from Phoebus High School in June 2009, and Project SEARCH is part of her transitional training. Elizabeth updates spreadsheets and carefully checks her work.

“She’s realizing that she can do more than she thought she could,” says Gwen Milholen.

“It’s really exciting to see the strengths of each student come to life. The community has been very supportive, and our students have blossomed during their time with us,” says Torie Bashay, Director of Patient Care at Sentara CarePlex and Project SEARCH Business Liaison.

More About Project SEARCH
Project SEARCH in Virginia, is modeled after the program at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, fosters employment opportunities for students with disabilities. Project SEARCH has been placing students at hospitals and business sites across the U.S. and abroad since 1998. The goal of the program is to help students age 18 to 21 gain competitive employment skills as they complete a year-long internship.

For more health information and the latest press releases, go to the Sentara news page on

Related Links:
-Hampton City Schools
-Newport News Public Schools
-Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services
-Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

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