Project SEARCH

A collaborative partnership between the Bartow County School System and Cartersville Medical Center.

Our Program

The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a unique, business-led, one-year, school-to-work program that takes place entirely at Cartersville Medical Center. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and relevant job-skills training through strategically designed internships.

The goal for each student participant is competitive employment. The program provides real-life work experiences within the hospital. Students may work in Maternity, Plant Operations, Food and Nutrition Services, Environmental Services, Occupational Medicine, Central Sterilization, Day Surgery, Materials Management, Outpatient Treatment, and the HOPE Center. The Project SEARCH model involves daily classroom time focusing on training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, and self-determination skills. Students spend the majority of their time in a hospital department learning entry-level job skills that can be generalized to positions in the community. As a result, at the completion of the training program, students with disabilities are employed in nontraditional, complex and rewarding jobs. The presence of a Project SEARCH High School Transition Program can bring about long-term changes in business culture that have far-reaching positive effects on attitudes about hiring people with disabilities and the range of jobs in which they can be successful.


Project SEARCH serves students from the Bartow County School System with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Typically, these are students that have an Individual Education Program (IEP) and are in their last year of high school eligibility. The most important criterion for acceptance into Project SEARCH is a desire to achieve competitive employment.

Program Overview

Students attend the program for a full school year at Cartersville Medical Center. The business provides access to an on-site classroom that can accommodate up to 12 students. The site is staffed by a Special Education Teacher and a Skills Trainer to meet the educational and training needs of the students.

Once the school year begins, the first few weeks of the program are focused on new employee orientation, hands-on skill assessment, and familiarization within the Cartersville Medical Center environment. Students develop a career plan which guides the internship selection process and individualized job search.
Employment Skills Curriculum: Throughout the school year, the students work on employability and functional skills for approximately two hours of their day. Classroom activities are designed around these focus areas: Team Building, Getting Around your Workplace, Workplace Safety, Technology, Social Skills, Communication, Presentation Skills, Interviewing Skills, Money Management, Health and Wellness, Job Search Skills and Keeping a Job.
Internships/Worksite Rotations: Through a series of three targeted internships the students acquire competitive, marketable and transferable skills to enable them to apply for a related position. Students also build communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills which is important to their overall development as a young worker. These are unpaid student work experiences-analogous to the clinical rotations that are part of every medical school or business internship program. Potential student worksites are identified through a continuous collaborative process involving the teacher, job coaches and business liaison. These internship rotations begin a few weeks after the start of the program. A department mentor is identified at each site. The mentor interacts with the instructor, job coach, and the student as a consistent source of guidance and feedback. Students spend approximately five hours each day at the internships including a thirty minute lunch. Working from a task list, they acquire the core skills necessary to be hired in an entry-level position at the host business site or in the community. Job coaches and department staff collaborate to provide support for students. The Project SEARCH staff delivers the training and develops job accommodations and standard work procedures. Once the students master the core skills, additional skills are layered on to improve their marketability.

Job Placement and Community Connections

During the last few months of the program the emphasis is on refining skills, achieving the career goal, and carrying out individualized job placement.

Person-Centered-Planning Meetings are held in the second half of the school year. A students entire support system comes together to plan the steps necessary to gain employment. The Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor becomes an even more important part of the team as the job search process begins. Job development and placement occurs based on the student's experiences, strengths, and skills. Linkages to appropriate services in the community are critical at this stage, as students prepare to graduate from the program, to ensure a successful transition to employment and adult life. Services are identified in the community that provide assistance with necessary adaptations required to perform a specific job, job coaching, and long-term follow along are arranged usually through the local Developmental Disability organization. Upon satisfactory completion of the program (95% or better attendance, good attitude, successful skill acquisition at each job site) students receive a Career Portfolio that contains a resume, letters of recommendation, a competency profile, any awards or special recognition received while in the program.

Student Selection

Students are referred to the program through classroom and lead teachers at school, family members, or a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and apply in the spring in the year prior to entering the program. A team representative of all the partners: Project SEARCH teacher, Cartersville Medical Center liaison, VR Counselor, and other appropriate staff carry out the selection process which includes tours, student interviews, hands-on assessments at the host sites and scoring on a rubric related to entrance considerations.

Program Model Fidelity

Project SEARCH is an international trademarked and copyrighted program model. To ensure model fidelity and best practices, all Project SEARCH program sites are required to sign a licensing agreement with the national office based at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical center. The model can accommodate different business sectors and regional variation in agency structure while adhering to these critical core model components:

News & Events

Project SEARCH participates in many different activities throughout the school year. Not only are interns gaining on-the-job training, they also are invited to assist with Relay for Life, 5K races, fundraisers, and special events within the hospital.

Interns At Work

Entrance Criteria

Project SEARCH recruitment begins in the spring for the following school year.  Applications can be obtained from the Lead Teacher in each high school.  Applications are generally due by the end of February and then working interviews are scheduled in March.  After the interview process is complete, those accepted will be notified.  Acceptance to Project SEARCH is NOT GUARANTEED.  There are many factors that must be considered when preparing for the next school year.  Please review the entrance criteria below.

Applicants must... 

  • Be at least 18 years of age


  • Complete high school credits/coursework necessary for graduation (GAA or Inclusion)


  • Agree that this will be the last year of services, and will accept a diploma at the end of the school year


  • Meet eligibility requirements for Vocational Rehabilitation


  • Have independent personal hygiene and grooming skills


  • Have independent daily living skills


  • Maintain appropriate behavior and social skills in the workplace


  • Take direction from supervisors and change behavior when necessary


  • Communicate effectively


  • Pass a drug screen and have immunizations up-to-date


  • Have the desire to work competitively in the community at the conclusion of the Project SEARCH program!

Project SEARCH Links

To learn more about Bartow County's Project SEARCH, please visit our page on Facebook:  Project SEARCH, Cartersville, or visit the website below to learn about the international program.