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Great Bay Community College Launches Project SEARCH

November 04, 2011

Program offers work experience and training in employability in health care field for students with special needs

PORTSMOUTH - In partnership with Portsmouth Regional Hospital, Community Partners of Dover, One Sky Community Services in Portsmouth and NH Vocational Rehabilitation, Great Bay Community College recently launched Project SEARCH, a nationally recognized school-to-work certification program for high school students and young adults with cognitive and physical disabilities. The first class comprised of eight students started on October 17th at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. Great Bay Community College also currently offers the START Hospitality Program to a similar population providing training and education for careers in the Hospitality Industry.

Project SEARCH began at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 1995. Since that time, it has expanded to over 150 locations throughout the United States, Canada, England, Australia and other countries throughout the world. Currently five Project SEARCH programs are up and running in New Hampshire including ones located at St. Joseph’s hospital in Nashua, Concord Hospital in Concord and Catholic Medical Center in Manchester. According to Christopher Lawrence, Director of Community Education at Great Bay, the College is the first Project SEARCH Program to have a community college as its educational partner.

After realizing an Interest from START program applicants in careers within the hospitality field, Lawrence was prompted to review the Project SEARCH program model with Heidi Wyman of Strafford Learning Center (a partner in the START Program) and Wendy Winslow of Community Partners. They then, along with Nancy Clayburgh, One Sky Community Services (OSCS) Board Member arranged a meeting with Portsmouth Regional Hospital with a proposal for partnership. Also in attendance at the meeting was Bob James, CEO of OSCS. According to Lawrence, Anne Jamieson, CEO of Portsmouth Regional Hospital was immediately receptive seeing the program as a way to not only serve a specific population but also as one that made good business sense from a human resources perspective. "We take great pride in being part of such a special program that trains the workforce of the future" noted Jamieson. "It’s all about supporting our community".

To participate in Project SEARCH, which runs for an entire academic year, students must be 18+ years of age, be ready to transition to employment, have an interest in healthcare occupations, be willing to work in the community, be open to accessing public transportation and be eligible for New Hampshire Vocational Rehabilitation and Area Agency Services. Rheanna Cote, the instructor for Project SEARCH, along with two Career Trainers, Emily Steltzer and Alex Brenneman, work with students throughout the year to develop transferable skills, professionalism, and work-related knowledge.

Students attend class and complete three different internships on site at Portsmouth Regional Hospital for a minimum of six hours each day. The curriculum includes an orientation to familiarize them with hospital protocol, culture and the facility. Students work with the instructor and career trainers to explore internship options and ultimately decide which internship sites best fit their career goals. Internship sites include departments within the hospital ranging from the supply chain and food and nutrition services to the rehabilitation center and imaging. Interns spend four hours each day at their sites learning to rely on the natural supports of the workplace. For the first and final hour of the day, students meet in the Project SEARCH classroom to develop goals, learn independent living skills, and discuss internship experiences and work to compile a professional portfolio.

Project SEARCH students maintain contact with their Career Trainers at the end of the school year; to job develop and establish appropriate employment opportunities. The goal of the program is to have students graduate ready to obtain and maintain part time to full time employment with on site natural supports from their new place of employment. "Graduates, at the end of the program", comments Lawrence "will be more prepared to become successfully employed in a medical setting or develop a career opportunity closely related to the internships that they were involved with."

In the first two weeks of class, Program Coordinator and Instructor Rheanna Cote has already seen growth in the eight students. "I have been more than impressed in the short amount of time I have spent with the students. They are extremely motivated and committed to discover their abilities and potential as independent, contributing citizens. I have no doubt that our Project SEARCH students will add to the richness of Portsmouth Regional Hospital’s culture and eventually to our wider communities as employees in our local businesses and institutions."

For information on program specifics contact Chris Lawrence at Great Bay Community College at 427-7651. Applications for the next program starting on September 4th, 2012 are due on March 9th.

Student Timeline:

Great Bay Community College Open House – Nov 10th & Jan 14th (location tbd)

Parent Information Session – Jan 11 & 12

Hospital Tours – February 7 & 9

Applications Due – March 9th

Candidate Interviews – March 26-30

Candidate Selection Committee Meets – April 2

Acceptance Letters – April 6th

Classes Start – September 4, 2012

Great Bay Community College is a comprehensive postsecondary institution offering quality academic and professional and technical education in support of workforce development and lifelong learning. Located in Portsmouth, Great Bay Community College is part of the Community College System of New Hampshire, a public system of higher education consisting of seven colleges in Berlin, Claremont, Laconia, Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth. The colleges offer Associate degrees and career training in technical, professional and general fields, including transfer pathways to baccalaureate degrees. For more information, visit www.greatbay.edu

For more information, contact Lisa Proulx,Public Information Officer, Great Bay Community College at lproulx@ccsnh.edu or (603) 427-7641

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