Monday was bittersweet for Kenyatta Davis, a 19-year-old College Station man.
Davis was among eight interns to graduate from Project SEARCH, a post-secondary program for students with disabilities in the College Station school district based at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in College Station. While he was excited to celebrate finishing the program during the bridging ceremony, he also was sad to part ways with the group of students he grew close with over the fall and spring.
Yet, Project SEARCH’s bridging ceremony was full of smiles and reminiscing on the students’ accomplishments. A number of friends, family members and Baylor Scott & White employees who worked with the interns came to celebrate the graduates who have all secured jobs.
“My favorite part of Project SEARCH was being able to bond with people because before I came here I didn’t want to bond with anyone,” Davis said. “I used to do things on my own. But after I came here, that helped me with that and now I feel comfortable being in a team.”
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This was Project SEARCH’s ninth year, and the program has now had 66 total interns since its inception. Project SEARCH’s students are called interns and complete one hour of class time each day devoted to improve employability and interview skills, resume building and more with the goal of being hired at the end of the year. Interns participate in three 10-week internships in different hospital departments. Baylor Scott & White has hired 17 interns and 11 are still employed at the College Station hospital.
Davis is among the newest staff members of the hospital. He will work in the food service department and prepare food trays before delivering them to patients on various floors.
“They let him try out different areas of food service and he decided that was one he liked to do and there was potentially a job available there, so we kind of from that point forward turned his internship into preparing for the job he would be hired into,” said Beth Sherry, a Project SEARCH instructor for the College Station school district.
Before Sherry was hired at Project SEARCH two years ago, she taught Davis at A&M Consolidated Middle School after he moved in from California in the seventh grade. Sherry said she’s noticed the growth in Davis’ confidence over the past nine months.
“At the start of this school year, he was really unsure of himself and his saying that he said all the time is, ‘I’m not good at talking to people,’” Sherry said. “And here we are at the end of the school year and he is super confident in his abilities. … Just the growth in the confidence for me is the biggest celebration for him.”
Davis said his favorite part of his rotations was learning to communicate with others. He noted working in food service and delivering food to patients helped him improve his communication skills.
Hannah Alexander, the food & nutrition director assigned to Aramark at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-College Station, worked with Davis in the food service department during his second rotation. She noted how he was willing to try out different areas of the department before he found a good fit.
“He brought us so many laughs, so many hot things to try, so many musical talents, and best of all he brought his best work ethic,” Alexander said.
Baylor Scott & White Regional President Jason Jennings spoke at the start of the bridging ceremony and noted health care and education are important to the Bryan-College Station community.
“This weekend, I was on my back patio doing a little research for today and this quote I think sums it up for all of the students a part of Project SEARCH graduating, quote from Audrey Hepburn: ‘Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible,’” Jennings said. “I’m happy to announce that all of the graduates today have jobs. It’s definitely possible, parents, families and friends, for students to graduate and get that job. To the students here today, you made this happen and I have just one word: congratulations.”
Other Project SEARCH graduates were able to land ideal jobs. During the bridging ceremony, Sherry shared how intern Ella Simpson came into the program with a dream of working at a coffee shop. She has now been hired to work at Harvest Coffee Bar. Loren Cearley has fulfilled her dream of being hired at H-E-B.
“I’m happy for them,” Davis said. “They were able to get the job they wanted and now they’re working. I’m also happy for myself that I was able to get a job I enjoy doing and that I am currently working.”