Finding work these days can be a challenge for everyone, but it's especially true for people with special needs. Project Search is designed to help. It starts in the classroom. Interns for Project Search at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center learn the do's and don'ts of the workplace.
"What's appropriate attire for different jobs, what do you do if there are problems on the work site, how you communicate with supervisors, chain of command," said Laureen Blum of Project Search.
From there, it's off to their individual assignments. Jenny Mayfield of Hartland heads down the hall to the cafeteria.
"I am doing the food service," said Jenny Mayfield, a Project Search intern. "I do dishes."
And once she gets there this intern does not need instruction. Working hard comes easily. Someday, she says she wants to work at Disneyland. Project Search, with more than 200 work sites across the world, is giving Mayfield hands-on experience that a future employer will want to see.
"They have goals just like anybody else does of marriage and families, and you know they want that stuff and they are driven to it," Blum said.
Dennis Jones of Lebanon interns on the endoscopy floor, mostly changing linens. Like Mayfield, he also has special needs and he's a hard worker. In fact, Jones already has two paying jobs. The main goal of Project Search is to find him another one.
"It's awesome," Jones said. "Money, you get to pay bills, you get to do what you want to do in your life."
Project Search is funded through a variety of sources, like school districts, vocational rehab and private companies like DHMC. Employees who work with the interns on the yearlong project say they give as much as they get.
"They come in, they are ready to go, they want to learn. They are an inspiration, I think, to many of the staff," said Jean Wulpern, a unit manager.
This is only the second year that Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has participated in the program. But organizers say the demand has been so great, there is often a waiting list. The application process for next year has already begun.
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