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About 130 Virginia high school students with developmental and intellectual disabilities completed internships this year under a state program aimed to help them develop job skills. Nearly 40 students were offered employment.

Project SEARCH recently hosted completion ceremonies at Carilion New River Valley Medical Center in Christiansburg and Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital to celebrate the accomplishments of eight students at each location. Other ceremonies are scheduled throughout the state.

Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel will speak at a June 8 ceremony at Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center in Mechanicsville.

“The hands-on training and skills that Project SEARCH teaches high school seniors have helped several hundred participants find jobs and greater independence since Virginia joined the program,” Hazel said in a news release. “It’s a wonderful way to help individuals with disabilities find meaningful work, and I’m happy to see the program continue to strengthen and grow in Virginia.”

Project SEARCH is funded by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. The agency provided $700,000 this year for job coaches to work with the students.

DARS. the state Department of Education, local hospitals and public schools work together to provide the program.

Since it began with the 2009-10 academic year, 600 students have completed the program.

DARS counselors guide the clients through the program during the year, working with teachers from their local schools, job coaches from local employment service organizations and staff from the host business who serve as liaisons and mentors.

DARS is one of the few agencies to work with young adults with autism and other developmental and intellectual disabilities as they seek employment following graduation. Project SEARCH is designed to help them learn job-related skills while still in school.

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