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Tue, May 23, 2017 at 05:00 AM

Program teaches job skills that lead to jobs

Project SEARCH students were on top of the world Friday as they officially graduated from the program.

“Project SEARCH did wonders for me,” said Tyler Baxter, who now is employed at Santa Fe restaurant in Albertville. “I met new people and I learned new skills that I look forward to using in the future. I love it.”

Destany Farrington, who is working at Bubba Ritos, agreed. 

“It was great,” she said. “It taught me job skills. I would do it again if given half a chance.”

This is the second year that Project SEARCH students did rotations inside Marshall Medical Centers in hopes of developing works skills that would lead into future employment. It worked before the year was up. All eight students were hired – two by Marshall South and one at Marshall North – months before the internship was scheduled to end. 

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.

Sabrina Weaver, director of human resources at Marshall Medical, told the students that hospital employees learned a lot while working alongside them. 

“We found it to be a mutually beneficial experience,” she said.


Micah Williamson of the Alabama Department of Rehab Services expressed gratitude to Marshall Medical for giving the students a chance.

“Unless you have a business that will let students come in and work, you don’t have a Project SEARCH,” he said. “I’m so glad to work with this hospital.”

Beth Hanner, Ann Kennamer and Kira Galarza make up the on-site team which coaches and trains students throughout their internship on two campuses and two TherapyPlus locations. 

“It’s not just one person,” Galarza said. “It takes everyone to be able to do it.”

Kennamer said they don’t baby the students because they want them to see what the real workplace is like.

“We’re tough on the students,” she said. “They’ve stepped up and grown a tremendous amount this year.”

The students and their places of employment are:

  • Allen Edward - Marshall South cafeteria
  • Mary Ramirez – Marshall South cafeteria
  • Savanna Barnard – Marshall North cafeteria
  • Tyler Baxter - Santa Fe restaurant
  • David Martensen – Lowe’s
  • Destany Farrington – Bubba Ritos
  • David Cortez – Discount Building Supply
  • Angela Barr – Arby’s in Scottsboro

Project SEARCH is a partnership between the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, Alabama Department of Mental Health, Alabama Council of Developmental Disabilities, the state and county boards of education and ARC of Jackson County. The Marshall County school system provides a teacher and Arc provides job coaches. Job coaches stay with students until they become skilled enough to work independently.

Angela Barr said she learned so much while in the program this year.


“It was awesome,” she said. “I loved it. I learned about being nice to others and I learned job skills.”

Savanna Barnard quickly summed up her job in Marshall North’s cafeteria.

“Everybody loves me,” she said.