Project SEARCH has a new crop of interns who are eagerly learning the ropes at Cartersville Medical Center.
Nine interns from Bartow County schools were accepted into the third-year program at CMC — which trains people with developmental disabilities to fill some of the high-turnover, entry-level positions that involve complex and systematic tasks such as stocking supply cabinets — and have spent the past two weeks touring various hospital departments and learning their way around the building.
Each intern will rotate through three different placements during the school year to learn job skills needed for him or her to secure employment by graduation. They currently are working in central sterilization, environmental services, The HOPE Center, mother/baby and the surgical services department.
“Every year brings new challenges and new strengths,” instructor Kristy Mitchell said. “We have nine interns this year, so the job coach, Amber McCurley, and I try to get out with everyone as much as possible, but there are some interns that require more help at the beginning of the year. We have students with autism, visual impairments, physical challenges and developmental disabilities. I believe they will all learn many skills that can help them to find jobs by graduation, but it is a process. This group is very polite and friendly and willing to work, which makes our jobs easier. As we progress throughout the school year, we will help the interns to identify their strengths and interests and try to match those to the right departments.”
The students spend about two hours in the hospital classroom each day, and the rest of the time is devoted to on-the-job training, Mitchell said.
“Interns are learning skills such as being on time, staying on task, how to make a good first impression and how to solve problems independently,” she said.
Paired with two mentors — local business people and educators who communicate with them monthly by email to encourage them and help them in any way possible — the interns kicked off their working relationships by hosting a Mentor Breakfast last week at the hospital.
“Trenton Rolen, an intern, introduced all the interns and explained Project SEARCH,” Mitchell said. “A slide show presentation showed the interns visiting different departments to learn about the tasks they will learn in each. Mentors and interns mingled to get to know each other, and the interns asked them questions about their jobs and how they ended up in those positions.”
This year’s interns and their mentors are:
• Haley Truax from Woodland High, paired with Angie Barnette from Georgia Power and Dr. Kimberly Fraker, chief academic officer for Bartow County Schools.
• Olivia Loveless from Woodland, paired with Joey McWhorter, owner of Taylor’s Farm Supply, and Lori Rakes, chief operating officer of Cartersville Medical Center.
• Jessie Weber from Woodland, paired with Adena Harper from Mary Kay Cosmetics and Nicole Wells, a Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation counselor.
• Johnathon Henson from Cass High, paired with Mike Mitchell, special education coordinator for Bartow County Schools, and Anne Cornwell, retired transition specialist for Bartow County Schools.
• Mikala Lancaster from Cass, paired with Lisa Sauceman, human resources representative with Lowe’s Distribution Center, and Kim Chester, parent mentor for Bartow County Schools.
• Faith Long from Cass, paired with school board Chairwoman Anna Sullivan and Alan Thomas, human resources representative for Home Depot.
• Jonathon Morrissey from Cass, paired with Capt. Darrell Abernathy of the Bartow County Fire Department and Bartow County School Board member Dr. Davis Nelson, faculty member at Berry College.
• Kelita Robinson from Cass, paired with Macy Defnall, chief human resources and operations officer for Bartow County Schools, and Anthony Johnson, regional general manager of Lowe’s Distribution Center.
• Trenton Rolen from Cass, paired with school board member and contractor John Howard and Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini, station manager of WBHF.
Truax, 19, said she wanted to be an intern to “get more jobs skills.”
“My rotation is environmental services,” she said. “I love it so far.”
Loveless, also 19, said her first rotation this year is in day surgery, “and I really like and enjoy it.”
Cartersville’s Project SEARCH program has been successful in its first two years in getting its interns hired by local businesses or prepared for more education.
“In its first year, all nine of the interns that participated in the program were hired, and all nine are still working,” Mitchell said. “Last year, six interns completed the program. Four already have jobs; one is completing the certified nursing assistance program; and the other is attending Kennesaw State’s inclusion program. Across the state, the Project SEARCH programs have an 83 percent success rate.”
At the breakfast, Joey McWhorter said he was happy he was asked to be a mentor in the program since he was pleased with one of last year’s graduates, Tyler Dufano, that he hired. Anthony Johnson said Lowe’s hired Alan Harris, an intern from the first year, for a full-time position, and he recently received an award for high productivity.
Mitchell said the hospital staff is “very supportive of our program,” and the departments she works with “really help our interns to learn meaningful, complex tasks.”
“We welcome any involvement from the business community because we want to know what skills are lacking in new employees and what positions have high turnover,” she said. “If we can identify these, we can train our interns to meet the needs of local businesses and help them to fill those jobs with hard-working, dependable employees.”
For information on the program, visit the Project SEARCH, Cartersville page on Facebook or call Mitchell at 770-324-9834.