Project SEARCH programs statewide hold commencement ceremonies (photo gallery)

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Project SEARCH, the Alabama program launched in 2012 to provide students with significant disabilities professional work experience, held 10 graduations at different program sites statewide throughout the month of May.

In total, 85 students across 10 Project SEARCH locations graduated this year. Of those 85, 62 had already accepted job offers by graduation day.

The program is a total immersion, business-led, school-to-work plan for young persons with significant cognitive and physical disabilities. Before ADRS helped launch the pilot in Alabama five years ago, the program had a long history of success at more than 200 locations across 40 states, said Tina Dortch, supported employment coordinator.

Nationally, program statistics show that persons with disabilities who participate in the program have a 67 percent rate of employment, which is significantly higher than the rate for persons not participating in the program, she said.

“Clearly, Project SEARCH works. These students are gaining much-needed and necessary skills before going out into the real world. When the 2017 class of graduates already has an employment rate of 73 percent at graduation, you know you’re doing something right. More will likely find jobs in the weeks ahead, and that’s further proof that this program works so well,” said Dortch.

Project SEARCH is a collaborative effort among ADRS, the Alabama Department of Mental Health, the Alabama Department of Education, and the work sites and local school districts that support the program.

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