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Project Search named Program of the Year

Project Search, a partnership between Florence 1 Schools and McLeod Regional Medical Center (Florence), Pee Dee AHEC, SC Vocational Rehabilitation Department, and the SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, was recently named the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children's Division of Career Development and Transition (SCDCDT) Program of the Year.

“We are honored to be chosen and are proud to receive this recognition,” said Project SEARCH Instructor Nancy Brown. “Credit must be given to Florence 1 and McLeod for initiating, funding and continuing to support a program that has proven to be invaluable for the students and families being served. The departments and administration at McLeod have warmly welcomed us, worked diligently with our interns and have taught us how to be part of their team. Our Project SEARCH team members from Florence 1, McLeod and SC Vocational Rehabilitation along with our skills trainers, Jennifer Heyward and John Bakas, have been instrumental in our being able to meet the needs of our interns, provide services and to reach our goals.”

An expansion of the district’s employability program, McLeod Project Search was started in 2019 to offer non-diploma track students job experience and skills training in areas such as food services, housekeeping and surgery prep that would help them gain future employment. The training takes place entirely in the workplace during a student’s last year of high school after all of the student’s program of study requirements are completed.

Brian Denny, Assistant Superintendent of Exceptional Children, said that he is thrilled with the recognition from SCDCDT.

“This program has been a huge success for our students,” Denny said. “The training that they are getting is invaluable and we really appreciate the partnership with McLeod that makes this possible. Being named the Program of the Year by SCDCDT shows us that others recognize the difference we are making for our students, preparing them for what could be a life-long career. ”

Eleven students have gained employment, ten at McLeod, since the start of the program.

“I have worked providing transition services for 32 years and the Project Search Program is by far the best program for moving our students into an integrated and competitive workforce,” said Anne Filyaw, Florence 1 Transition Coordinator. “ I am so grateful to be a part of this program and for McLeod to have provided this opportunity for our students.”

A graduation ceremony for Project Search for the 21-22 school year will be held May 26, 2022. Six new students have been invited to participate beginning August 1, 2022.

“We are making a difference in the greater community, we really are,” said Matthew Peake, McLeod’s Health Careers Program Coordinator. “The culture, the awareness, the perception of all people of all abilities is rapidly changing as these students become employees in departments, as they become co-workers and peers, it is really changing the overall atmosphere.”