• Sara Doan, Northeast Arkansas News

St. Bernards hosts Project SEARCH graduation

Updated: Jun 1

JONESBORO, Ark- St. Bernards Medical Center hosts its fifth Project SEARCH graduation Thursday night at the hospital.

Project SEARCH trains and helps prepare adults with intellectual disabilities to secure jobs in the community. The program is through a partnership with ACCESS Initiative, Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, and St. Bernards Medical Center.

Mary Housewright works alongside the ten interns at St. Bernards, the programs host site.

She says it’s a gift to watch the graduates grow and reach their full potential.

“It’s been amazing. Nine months we spend with these young adults to help them learn and grow so that they’ll succeed,” she said. “They’ll succeed in employment, and they’ll succeed in life. It’s awesome.”

Over the past nine months, the interns completed rotations in various hospital departments. Additionally, they served at business around town while learning skills training.

Logan Bessee is one of the graduates.

“I’m very excited. I’m very proud with all the other graduates that I’ve worked with. The futures they have ahead of them is beyond incredible,” he said.

Bessee, who works at Walgreens, joins 49 other interns who have graduated from Project SEARCH at the hospital since 2017.

Amy Findley is the director of education and organizational development at St. Bernards. She says the impact the program has on the interns is big- but the impact the interns have on staff is? Well, that’s even larger.

“They always have a positive attitude,” Findley continues. Just a great influence to us and our employees every day, and it’s amazing to see that. We’re so proud to have them here as part of our program.”

This class reached 100% employment. As the grads are going to work at St. Bernards, the City of Jonesboro, and buff city soaps, along with Westside Consolidated School District, to name a few.

For graduate McKenna Acree, she says the program took her out of her comfort zone.

“Miss. Jessica helped me with that the most, and she helped me build confidence in myself. I learned there is no limit to what I can do. And if something is difficult, I can still find a solution in my own way.”

The graduation featured speakers and a surprise performance from Cory Jackson. KJNB was there when he visited the group in March.

Since its creation in the Natural State nine years ago, the program has grown to seven sites across Arkansas.

“We’ve been growing because of the success of the program,” Jenny Adams, program director for Project SEARCH, says. “Because the young adults were able to get employment and be successful. And as of tonight, we have graduated over four hundred young adults from our seven programs.”

Project SEARCH will welcome its sixth class of interns this fall.


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