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Project Search

See pages 20-21 of the 2011 Missouri State Rehabilitation Council's  Annual Report for more coverage of our role in Project Search.
A Focus on Ability, Not Disability

Fall 2010

Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital -- Project Search

Amanda Whipple completed four
years at St. Charles High School,
but needed more training before
transitioning to the workforce.

It is fall -- when most students go back to school -- and Amanda Whipple, 19, begins her internship with Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital (BJSPH). For the young woman born with Down Syndrome, this internship means much more than just an opportunity to learn valuable job skills. It also marks the beginning of a voyage toward independence after being strongly supported by her family, friends and teachers.

Whipple's internship at BJSPH is part of Project Search, a national, nine-month transition program targeting young adults 18-20 with developmental disabilities. Its primary goal is to help prepare participants for employment. Interns gain job skills and experience important for employment by spending seven hours each day in a high-status sponsoring business. Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital is the first business in Missouri to become a sponsoring organization for the Project Search program.

As a sponsoring business, BJSPH provides meeting space for classroom instruction and on-the-job training for up to 12 interns through job shadowing and mentorship. The Project Search partners provide a classroom instructor, two to three employment analysts (also known as job coaches), and ongoing support to interns after completing the program.

Thank You to Our
Project  Search Partners:

  • Developmental Disabilities
        Resource Board
  • Life Skills
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Francis Howell School District
  • City of St. Charles School  
  • Orchard Farm School District
  • Wentzville School District
  • The interns participate in three, 10-week sessions based on their interests and skill level, and any previous experience. They can choose from several Hospital departments for their internship, including:
    • Clerical Support
    • Facilities and Maintenance
    • Food Service
    • Materials Management
    • Environmental Services
    • Human Resources
    • Oncology
    • Records Management
    • Central Sterilization
    • Scanning/Imaging
    • Mail Room/Mail Delivery


    Each department is responsible for assigning job duties and providing two employees to serve as the primary and secondary mentors for each intern.

    Between sessions, the interns spend a week in a classroom setting learning such skills as:
    • Completing job applications
    • Interviewing
    • Budgeting
    • Resume writing
    Regina Wade-Johnson is the Project Search instructor at BJSPH. She is a certified special education teacher for the Orchard Farm School District, with more than 23 years of experience. She provides supervision and support on site and during the one-week classroom labs, and meets with the interns each day, before and after their shifts.

    Wade-Johnson considers her role of the first Missouri Project Search instructor as one of the highlights of her professional career. Her eyes well up with tears, “I’ve seen the positive impact this program has had in Amanda’s life and in the lives of our other interns. These young adults have found skills they didn’t even know they had and that others didn’t know about, either. Every time we raise the bar, they grab hold and pull themselves up higher.”

    A Positive Impact

    2012 Interns (left to right)
    Maggie Baber, Kathleen Mertz, Robert Bierer,
    Josh Fankhauser, Christian Aberastury
    (not pictured: Jonah Settle)

    BJSPH supportive staff: (left to right)
    Beatriz Amaris, Kathy Doherty, Denise Hartenberger,
    Jane Skinner, Karen Prideaux, Regina Wade-Johnson
    Amanda Whipple, seems to have found her niche at BJSPH. Cynde Huber, manager of environmental services, never doubted her team would welcome the Project Search interns. What she didn’t anticipate, however, was how significant the positive changes would be for everyone. “I’ve seen Amanda grow as a person. She communicates better, makes more eye contact and shows an increase in her confidence and skill levels,” says Huber. “I’ve also seen growth in the employees who work with her. Amanda’s success is a huge source of pride for them.”

    Chris Morton, environmental services technician, has been Whipple’s primary mentor since she began her internship in the department more than two months ago. “Amanda is learning what it takes to work in environmental services, and I’m developing leadership skills I didn’t even know I had,” Morton says. “I feel better about myself because of it.”

    The interns are required to perform the functions of their jobs like any other employee. This means Whipple, who enjoys working in the patient areas, follows a set protocol:
    • She knocks on each patient door before entering
    • She asks the patient’s permission to clean the room
    • She writes her name on the white board
    • She follows the seven cleaning steps required by all environmental service employees:
      1. Emptying the trash
      2. Cleaning the bathroom
      3. Dusting
      4. Sanitizing
      5. Dust mopping
      6. Wet mopping
      7. Final inspection of the room
    The job Whipple does is exceptional. She scored extremely high during a germ test on a patient room using a blacklight. “Amanda is a very detailed person,” says Morton. But besides being good at her job, Whipple has a great attitude and is pleasant to work with. “We all can learn something from her outlook on life and the positive contributions she brings to our workplace,” says Morton.

    Whipple’s co-workers enjoyed her so much, they want her to do a second rotation with the department. “We don’t have any positions open in our department right now, but we are interested in having Amanda join our team per diem as soon as we do,” Huber says. “We feel Amanda is in a good place and we want her to stay.”

    In the meantime, Whipple will work on improving her speed, and will spend time with employees learning computer competencies.

    Project Search programs are being replicated in 40 states and five countries. For more information about the BJSPH Project Search program, call Regina Wade-Johnson, 636.916.7168.