Preparing for the workforce with Project SEARCH

Project Search Graduation 2018

Pictured from left to right: Elaine Willey, Director of Volunteer Services; Cullen O’Hayre, Project SEARCH graduate; Olivia Whitney, Project SEARCH graduate; Ed Kelly, President & CEO; Blessed Hinton, Project SEARCH graduate; Michele Santangelo, Project SEARCH teacher; Nicole Clark, Project SEARCH graduate; Dave Martini, Project SEARCH job coach.

Project SEARCH is a one year, high school transition program which provides training and education leading to employment for individuals with disabilities. This program immerses young adults between the ages of 18-21 into real-life work scenarios for the duration of a full school year. Project SEARCH was introduced to Milford Regional by Milford High School in 2011. The partnership blossomed with the guidance of job coaches, teachers and Milford Regional employees, helping individuals gain the experience needed for their future success.

Project SEARCH is a widely respected model. This program first started in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and since then has grown to more than 500 programs in the United States and eight additional countries. Milford Regional was the first hospital in Massachusetts to welcome this program.

PS logoFor the past seven years, Milford Regional has been welcoming these students into our hospital to gain work experience and skills in different departments such as: food and nutrition, the stock room, environmental services, pharmacy, and sterilization. Our department managers and employees provide on-the-job training and feedback to help these interns master the skills for each role.

The intern’s daily schedule includes time within their designated department, as well as classroom time. Lessons are based on daily living/employability skills, such as problem solving, team work, decision making, budgeting, check writing, resume building and job searching. Milford Regional’s human resource department also conducts mock job interviews with the interns to help build confidence and develop interview skills.

At the end of their year with Project SEARCH, the interns are equipped with career plans and resumes, as well as workplace etiquette and independent living skills. In addition, the students are assisted with job placement with in the community. Throughout the seven years of this program, Milford Regional has hired six graduates of the Project SEARCH program.


Project SEARCH graduate, Cullen O’Hayre, enjoying his time as an intern in the stockroom.

“Project SEARCH has been a transition program that has given my son Cullen direction to his future. Everyone he has come in contact with at Milford Regional has been supportive, kind, and professional,” says Kathy O’Hayre, Cullen’s mother. “By participating in Project SEARCH, Cullen has improved his problem solving skills and time management skills, just to name a couple. His independence, confidence, and self-esteem have flourished because of the support of everyone associated with this program. He has a sense of belonging here at Milford Regional. It is a place that recognizes and understands his challenges. It has been a wonderful program for my son.”

Cullen agrees. “Project SEARCH helps you get comfortable by working in different departments. My job coaches at Project SEARCH have taught me that it is OK to ask questions,” says Cullen.

Project SEARCH welcomes individuals from all surroundings towns to apply for this life-changing program. For more information please contact: Elaine Willey, director of volunteer services: 508-422-2263; or Michele Santangelo, Project SEARCH instructor: 508-422-2386

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