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Differently-abled Students Ready for Next Challenge

By Dennis Watts

On Thursday eight students in the Robeson Community College’s third Project SEARCH class received certificates in a ceremony held at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, the college’s training partner for the program. Project SEARCH, which is funded by the N.C. Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, seeks to teach job skills to students who have developmental disabilities, with the goal of enabling them to become productively employed at the end of the internship.

Project SEARCH is part of Robeson’s Adult Basic Education Transitions program. Those who are familiar with this program often know it by its former name, Compensatory Education. The ABET program serves adult students with developmental disabilities once they have completed their studies in high school. Though this population is small, it is an important segment of society, and serving this population is an important part of the mission of Robeson Community College.

Robeson Community College’s Project SEARCH participantsRobeson Community College’s Project SEARCH participants Landon Lowery, left, Tamira French, Kira French, Cheyanna Locklear, Traeon D. McNair, Jaquill Nealy, Leslie Rowdy, and Ronald Williams hold the certificates they received for completing the program during a recent ceremony.Project SEARCH integrates differently abled students into internships at Southeastern Regional Medical Center and emphasizes a “total immersion” experience where the interns are at the job site for the full day. Students typically spend about an hour and a half each day working on employability skills with Robeson Community College instructor Marcia Smallwood. Each intern then spends about five hours each day working in various positions at Southeastern Health.

Participants in the program worked in food services, guest services, laboratories and other areas on the hospital’s main campus and at the Community Health and Education Center inside Biggs Park Mall. They learned various skills, such as greeting visitors and assisting them in finding their way around the hospital, packing food containers, collecting specimens, data entry, filling orders and stocking supplies.

Program participants Kira French, Tamira French, Cheyanna Locklear, Landon Lowery, Traeon D. McNair, Jaquill Nealy, Leslie Rowdy and Ronald Williams began the program in August and each received certificates of completion on Thursday. McNair and Nealy already have secured employment upon completion of their internships. McNair will be joining McDonalds’ Roberts Avenue location, while Nealy will work as a floor technician in the hospital’s Environmental Services division.

At Thursday’s completion ceremony Dr. Patrick Ebri, vice president of Talent and Culture at Southeastern Health, welcomed the group on behalf of Southeastern. Project SEARCH participant Rowdy offered an invocation. James Mitchell, Educational Coordinator at RCC, introduced keynote speaker Elizabeth Hunt, who now serves as director of Corporate Compliance at Southeastern, but who also originally wrote the grant to fund Project SEARCH three years ago when she worked for the college. Heath Turner, Human Resource generalist for Southeastern, and Mary Collier, rehabilitation counselor for Vocational Rehabilitation, recognized the various departments within the hospital that were involved in the project. Marcia Smallwood, Project SEARCH instructor with RCC, and Nateesta Oliver, Employment Services coordinator with RHA Health Services, presented certificates to program completers. Dr. Kimberly Gold, president of RCC, praised the collaborative effort of the partners and the hard work of the participants in her remarks. Rocky Peterkin, assistant vice president of RCC’s College and Career Readiness program delivered closing comments, and Terry Jackson, Transition coordinator at RCC, delivered the benediction.

Photos of the students and the ceremony can be viewed on the college’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RobesonCommunityCollege.

The original article appeared in The Robesonian on


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North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities
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