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Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 06:00 AM

All Project SEARCH interns hired months before internship ends

Two by Marshall South!

Savanna Barnard has a job and a clear career path ahead of her. Nobody is more surprised about that than the 19-year-old and her mother. Before entering the Project SEARCH program for students with disabilities, Savanna couldn't figure out what she wanted to do or how to go about it.

An internship changed all that.


"This is a wonderful program," said Savanna's mother Cherri Barnard. "It was a Godsend for her."


Last year was the first year that Project SEARCH students did rotations inside Marshall Medical Centers and no one really knew what to expect. During the program's second year in the hospitals, expectations have been shattered. All eight have been hired - two by Marshall South - months before the internship was scheduled to end. That has amazed everybody.


"We are very proud of each of the Project SEARCH interns this year," said Instructor Beth Hanner, who helped throw a party to celebrate the students' success. "They have worked so hard to reach their goals and have met or exceeded every expectation we had for them."

Job Coach Ann Kennamer commended the students for their effort.

"We have seen the lights come on," she said. "We've seen people come out of their shells. We've seen very shy students come into the program and grow into productive adults."


Project SEARCH is an international program that targets students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a goal of helping them get jobs. The high school students from all over Marshall County work for 10 months rotating between departments in Marshall North and South and TherapyPlus locations.


Savanna is working at the Children's Place Daycare in Scottsboro. Because Marshall Medical doesn't have a daycare, a new partnership was found so that Savanna could find out if she enjoyed working with children. Not only did she like it, she is planning to attend Snead State's child development program. Her job coach said she is a natural.


"Her disability disappears when she is working with the little ones," Kennamer said.

Mary Ramirez' father said the program was great for his daughter because it taught her skills, gave her the chance to use them and see where she excelled. Mary was working at the Rock House Eatery in Guntersville when she joined Project SEARCH and did rotations in the cafeteria and housekeeping. She was hired to work in Marshall South's kitchen.


"It is a very good program," said her dad, Mario Ramirez. "It taught her what she needed to know."


"It was an honor being able to work with Mary," Cindy Martin, job coach for Marshall County Schools, told Ramirez about his daughter.

Internships are not made easy for the students, Hanner said.

"They work hard because when they get a job we want them to know it's going to be hard."


Hospital employees said the interns were a pleasure to work alongside.

"We have loved this experience," Ruby Brown, director of environmental services at South, told the group at the party. "Ya'll have been wonderful."


Janet Alexander, kitchen supervisor, agreed. "They're good. It's been wonderful."

Kennamer gave the hospital a lot of credit for students' success. "Hats off to Marshall Medical Centers," she said. "They're the core of this program."

        Other students and their employees are:

        Allen Edward - Marshall South

        Tyler Baxter - Santa Fe Restaurant

        David Martensen - Lowe's

        Destany Farrington - Bubba Rito's

        David Cortez - Discount Building Supply

        Angela Barr - Arby's in Scottsboro