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Prisma Health and the School District of Pickens County graduate six students from Project SEARCH program in its fifth year

Friday, June 18, 2021

Program helps students with disabilities with school-to-work transition

EASLEY, S.C.—Prisma Health and School District of Pickens County celebrated its fifth year of the student-initiative Project SEARCH, graduating six students from the program at Prisma Health Baptist Easley.

The students graduating in the class of 2021 include: Skylor Carter, Grant Chapman, Chris Chastain, Arial Pace, Keli Grace Powell, Dakota Rigdon.

The School District of Pickens County (SDPC), Prisma Health Baptist Easley Hospital, Pickens County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs and SC Vocational Rehabilitation have collaborated since 2016 to bring Project SEARCH to young adults with special needs. Project SEARCH is a business-led school-to-work transition model with demonstrated success in developing internships for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are in their last year of high school.

Interns completed a total of three eleven-week internship rotations in a variety of departments throughout the hospital. Placement options included positions in Environmental Services, Food and Nutrition Services, Supply and Distribution and a physician’s practice. Students engaged in an inclusive work environment and learned department specific skills from their teams. They were included in department trainings, meetings, and celebrations to experience every aspect of being an employee. Each intern also planned and executed multiple personal Employment Planning Meetings throughout the year to guide their support team in decisions related to their future job interests.

Project SEARCH includes Pam Cantrell, SC Voc Rehab job coach, Teri Lilland, SDPC, teaching assistant/job coach, Dakota Ridgon, Skylor Cartee, Chris Chastain, Grant Chapman, George McLeer, SDPC instr

Pictured, left to right: Pam Cantrell, SC Voc Rehab job coach, Teri Lilland, SDPC, teaching assistant/job coach, Dakota Ridgon, Skylor Carter, Chris Chastain, Grant Chapman, George McLeer, SDPC.

Todd Walker, Chief Executive Officer, Prisma Health Baptist Easley Hospital, said, “As one of South Carolina’s largest employers, Prisma Health Baptist Easley believes in the power of collaboration for career training. From the beginning, this partnership has been about helping students find a path to successful employment. We are proud to say we’ve been able to continue this effort even during a pandemic. Prisma Health has been able to add some of the students to our team but more importantly, they finish the program confident and ready to work. This is another way we have been able to give back to our community.” 

Dr. Danny Merck, the School District of Pickens County Superintendent, said, “We are grateful for the real-world opportunities this partnership with Baptist Easley provides for our students. SDPC appreciates the many employees at Baptist Easley who work with our students each day to provide work-based learning.” 

Since 2016, 32 interns have completed the program. The program at Baptist Easley has an 85 percent job placement rate with a 77 percent retention rate from all job placements.

Pickens School District serves nearly 2,200 students with disabilities annually, providing a variety of programs for students in grades 3K-12. The Project SEARCH initiative is just one of the programs the district has implemented to ensure special needs students and families have access to services.

About Prisma Health

Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and the largest healthcare system in South Carolina. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 acute care and specialty hospitals, 2,947 beds, approximately 300 outpatient sites, and nearly 5,000 employed and clinically integrated network physicians and providers, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million unique patients annually in its 21-county market area that covers 50% of South Carolina. Prisma Health’s goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care, as well as conducting clinical research and training the next generation of medical professionals. For more information, visit

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