Project Search: Lamar, Petal, Hattiesburg schools take part in training program


Forrest General Hospital will host Project SEARCH, which is one-year high school transition program for young adults with developmental disabilities. The program provides the participants with an opportunity to develop functional skills, enabling them to become a part of the community workforce. Forrest General is partnering with Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, Lamar County School District, Hattiesburg Public School District, and Petal Public School District.

“We hope that Project SEARCH will lead to increased employment opportunities in the Pine Belt for individuals that, otherwise, would find it particularly difficult to find meaningful work,” said Troy Daniels, vice president of Forrest Health. “A diverse work community is one that is rich with fresh perspectives and experiences, and we know that expanding the workforce to include everyone will only benefit our community.”

Interviews were held May 3 and the program has accepted 10 students, who will begin training in August 2019.

“This unique program brings the vocational skills set in a practical hands-on learning environment that our typical classroom just can't replicate,” said Heather Howell, instructor for Project SEARCH. “The students will learn from and work alongside mentors in the different hospital departments, as well as having academic classroom time to fine tune independence, daily living skills, self-advocacy, and preparing for their futures. The dynamic collaboration will make the transition from high school to the work force successful for our young adults with disabilities, and I am so excited to be an integral part of this partnership.”

Each student will rotate through three areas of the hospital, and upon completion of the program, the students will be trained and able to work in the community. The participating hospital departments include Central Transport, Food and Nutrition, Pharmacy, Environmental Services, and Outpatient Rehabilitation. In addition to healthcare, participants may be well-suited to work at banks, shipping and packing companies, dentists’ offices, and restaurants, to name a few examples of organizations that might benefit from Project SEARCH.

“Our goals are for each intern to gain valuable work experience throughout this school-year internship and then subsequently gain full-time employment with benefits after completion of this program,” said Chris Howard, MDRS executive director. “Our partnership with Forrest General Hospital and the Hattiesburg, Lamar County and Petal School districts is making these goals possible for each student in the Project SEARCH Program.”

For more information about Forrest General and its employment and volunteer opportunities, visit