Project SEARCH is a transitional program for high school students who are between 18 and 21 years of age and are in their last eligible year of high school. They participate in three 10- week internship rotations at Shelby Baptist Medical Center, located in Alabaster, Alabama. Within the internships they learn various job skills that will help them gain competitive employment within the community once the program is completed.
Project SEARCH was developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, a research environment that fosters visionary thinking and innovation. It all began in 1996, when Erin Riehle was Director of Cincinnati Children’s Emergency Department. Erin felt that, because the hospital served individuals with developmental disabilities, it made sense that they should commit to hiring those individuals. She wondered if it would be possible to train people with developmental disabilities to fill some of the high-turnover, entry level positions in her department, which involved complex and systematic tasks such as stocking supply cabinets. As a starting point, Erin presented her ideas to Susie Rutkowski, then the special education director at Great Oaks Career Campuses. Erin and Susie formed a partnership that was instantaneous, and together they launched Project SEARCH. As of now there are over 200 Project SEARCH programs across the country, as well as Australia and England.
When Project SEARCH expanded into Alabama, The Arc of Shelby County was selected as one of two pilot program locations.
The Arc of Shelby County, Shelby County Board of Education, Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, Alabaster City Schools and Shelby Baptist Medical Center partner together to form our local site. The Shelby County Project SEARCH staff consists of one full time teacher, a full time job coach, as well as a part time job coach.