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Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Student got an early Christmas present – a job

Edwards is the newest employee at Marshall Medical Centers

Nineteen-year-old Allen Edwards got something just in time for Christmas without even bothering to ask Santa Claus.

He is the first student from this year’s Project SEARCH class to get a job.

“It was exciting,” Edwards said of his first day as a cafeteria working helping with Grab n’ Go meals, doing dishes, making salads and serving plates.

Edwards, who graduated from Douglas High School last year, went to work in the cafeteria at Marshall South Dec. 19. He was one of eight students from local high schools doing rotations in the hospitals as part of Project SEARCH, which helps students with disabilities become employable.

“He’s real good,” said Ed West, director of food services at Marshall South. “He’s conscientious about what he does. He’s a steady worker. He’s looks for something to do.”

Edwards has worked at the Rock House Eatery since July 2015. He said the Project SEARCH job coaches helped him land that position.

“I think it is a great program,” he said. “It has helped me find a job, get skills, get the job here. The teachers are great. They help you a lot. Even after you’re hired they’ll still check on you.”

Allen, who likes to go bowling and skating with friends when he’s not working, said good-bye to his Rock House co-workers at a Christmas party this week.

Project SEARCH is an international program that targets students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a goal of helping them get jobs. This is the second year for Marshall Medical to participate in the program. The first group of students worked for 10 months rotating between departments in Marshall North and South and TherapyPlus locations. Two students were hired to work permanently at each hospital, and five students landed jobs elsewhere.

The current group went through training classes and orientation in August before beginning their rotations. They stand out throughout the hospitals and gyms wearing their brown scrubs monogrammed with ‘Project SEARCH.’

“We are so excited to have Allen be our first intern this year to be hired by Marshall Medical Centers,” said Beth Hanner, Project SEARCH instructor. “He will make a wonderful addition to the cafeteria team and we know he will be a dedicated employee that will make a positive impact. We are so happy for him and thankful to Marshall Medical Centers for giving our interns these amazing opportunities.” 

West said a second Project SEARCH student is going through the hiring process to work in the cafeteria at South. He is a great supporter of the program.

“It has been a big boost in our area,” he said. “It really has helped us. It’s a win-win for both sides.”

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.

This year’s students are:

·       Allen Edwards- Douglas High School

·       Savanna   Barnard   - Geraldine High School

·       David  Martensen- home schooled

·       Tyler Baxter- Boaz High School

·       David Cortez - Douglas High School

·       Mary Ramirez - Douglas High School

·       Angela Barr- DAR High School

·       Destany Farrington - homeschooled