For the past four years, the South-Western City School District has partnered with OhioHealth to offer internship opportunities for students with disabilities through the Project Search program at OhioHealth Doctors Hospital.

"One of the ultimate goals of the program is to help these students gain the skills they need to be hired after graduation," said Jennifer Javorsky, Project Search coordinator.

At least one of the six students participating in this year's program already knows where he would like to work -- Doctors Hospital at 5100 W. Broad St.

Central Crossing High School senior Dalton Depew said he has found the work he does at the hospital to be a perfect fit for him.

"I just like working with the people around here, and you feel like you're part of helping take care of the patients," he said. "I hope I can apply and get a job here when my internship's over."

Project Search is a school-to-work transition program for students with physical and developmental disabilities.

"The students have all met their graduation requirements, but they have chosen to delay their graduation for a year to serve a Project Search internship," Javorsky said. "During the year, they are learning employment skills and life skills that will help them transition successfully to the real world that awaits you after high school."

This year's roster of interns includes students from each of South-Western's four high schools, she said.

The internships correspond with the school year, beginning in August and ending in May.

"Each student goes through a rotation of three, 10-week internships working in different areas of the hospital," Javorsky said.

A typical day begins with an hour of classroom instruction where the students learn general employment and life skills, she said.

The rest of the day is spent working at their internship sites and receiving assistance from job coaches provided by Greenleaf Job Training Services.

Students also receive career guidance, job coaching and other support from Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Javorsky said. The Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities will offer support after the students graduate and have secured a job.

"We have a team that takes a wholistic approach to helping the students make the transition from school to the job market," she said.

Each year, it's inspiring to watch as students grow more confident in themselves and their job skills, said Chris Moranda, OhioHealth's manager of disability services.

"You'll see students who start out the year shy and who find it difficult to speak to others," she said. "By the end of the year, they've blossomed and are ready to enter the workforce."

On Dec. 18, the students played host to an open house where they talked with visitors about the experiences they are having serving as interns.

The guests included staff members from Doctors Hospital, South-Western City Schools, the Franklin County BDD and Greenleaf, Javorsky said.

Central Crossing High School senior Nathaniel Perry's internship has so far included performing porter and dishwashing duties.

"I like working as a porter, helping keep the hospital clean," he said. "It's a good feeling when you complete a task."

Perry said he would like to work in the environmental services department of a bookstore.

"I really love books. I love reading, especially R.L. Stine," he said. "Just to have the chance to be around books each day would be so much fun."

Aryese Jones said he was eager to apply for the Project Search internship, even if it meant a delay before getting his diploma.

"I wanted to learn all the life skills I would need to help me get a job after school," he said. "One of the things I've learned is how important it is to know how to communicate in the workplace. No matter what job you have, you'll need to know how to work with others and follow directions."

Communicating with others is something the Grove City High School senior enjoys.

"I like talking with people," he said. "Sometimes when I was working in beverage stocking during my first internship rotation, I got the chance to talk to some of the patients. I like trying to make things easier and more comfortable for them. At the end of the day, I feel like I've contributed to the care they're receiving here. It gives you a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day."

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