Jackson program preps special needs students for workforce

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JACKSON, Tenn. — Local high school students get hands-on work experience at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. Project SEARCH prepares students with disabilities for the workforce. Elexus Sinclare stacked papers on Monday as one of 12 students enrolled in a new school-to-work program at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. “We’re working on booklets to put it together,” Sinclare said. Project SEARCH gives Jackson-Madison County students with intellectual and developmental disabilities hands-on work experience. “The students are really picking up so many hands on skills that they might not otherwise gain if they weren’t in a work environment,” Katie Chandler, who helps oversee the program said. Students learn different departments throughout the hospital, everything from food services to maintenance. Project SEARCH Instructor Melissa Whitaker said students do three ten week internships throughout the one year program and the goal is employment. “Everyday I see them growing in their skills and what they do,” Whitaker said. The hospital said job coaches from the STAR Center also work with students. “I love it,” Sinclare said. Students also sit through about an hour of classroom instruction each day. The hospital said these internships are not paid.

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