“I cannot think of a better word than growth to describe what all of us in this room have seen from (the graduates) over the past year,” Finger said.
Katie Sims, Project SEARCH Southeastern Cooperative Educational Programs teacher at Maryview, said life after high school for students with disabilities and their families can be “scary,” but that schools work to connect families with outside options to provide the best opportunities for those students.
“What Project SEARCH does really well is intensify those opportunities by allowing students to have nine months of on-the-job training to gain valuable work and social skills so that they can be successful, (and) be exposed to a variety of work environments that allow them to discover skills that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to have in a typical high school setting,” Sims said.
After Tearia Grier graduated last year from Churchland High School in Portsmouth, she became eligible for the Project SEARCH program. Her mother, Cheryl Bland, said her daughter’s confidence has been building since. Grier, 21, was hired in the nursing unit at Maryview.
Daniel Fahey was hired in Maryview’s emergency department in May. Rodney Cuffee and Devin Roley were hired at DePaul in a nursing unit and in information systems, respectively.
Lozito and Denzel Smith are pursuing jobs in their local communities of Virginia Beach and Portsmouth. Lozito said he wants to work at a business where he can stock; Smith wants to work at a restaurant or movie theater.
“I’ve been doing Project SEARCH here at Maryview for three years, but I’ve been with SECEP for almost 20 years,” said Sims, who left her job in Virginia Beach to work at Maryview in Portsmouth. “I totally took a chance … but I really wanted our students to succeed and now I can’t imagine doing anything else because it’s just amazing.”