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July 17, 2018

Project SEARCH® changes trajectory of five lives

For the Crutchfield family, Project SEARCH® has been the answer to a mother’s heartfelt prayer.

Christopher Crutchfield, who is 28 and has Downs’ Syndrome, had been staying at home the past few years – and his mother Janice wanted him to have a more productive pathway for his life.

That’s what Southwestern Community College’s Project SEARCH® program provided.

“We felt like he needed something, but we didn’t really know exactly where to go,” Janice Crutchfield recalled back in mid-May. “So we prayed that God would send him something. And Marzena Bradley (part-time instructor at Southwestern Community College) approached me and told me about Project SEARCH®.”

So the younger Crutchfield, a Cherokee resident, enrolled in the program in August and spent the next nine months with four classmates taking classes and working internships through the program that’s coordinated and run by Southwestern Community College.

Western Carolina University hosted Project SEARCH® this past year, and the interns worked in a variety of departments there including the print shop, warehouse, bookstore, First Stop, Rec Center, Homebase and more.

On graduation day, Janice Crutchfield watched as a capacity crowd filled the Homebase auditorium and celebrated the accomplishments of Christopher Crutchfield and his four fellow graduates: Dalton Hendricks of Bryson City, Breanna Varner of Franklin, Brittany Watson of Franklin and Michelle Mauldin of Cullowhee.

“Christopher is so much more independent; he fills his day more.” Janice Crutchfield said. “He’s capable of doing so many things.”

Project SEARCH® is a national nonprofit program that partners with businesses to create internships for young adults with disabilities.

The program allows men and women from ages 18-30 with disabilities to gain marketable and transferrable employability skills through the implementation of hands-on work experience during a series of three separate, 10-week internships matched to their individual interests, strengths and abilities.

 “For most of these graduates lives, people may have focused too much on what they cannot do,” said Devonne Jimison, who oversee’s the Project SEARCH® program at SCC. “We focus on what they can do. This is our fourth class of graduates. Every single year, our students exceed our expectations through this program. I could not be more proud of them, and I know every one of them has a bright future ahead.”

To learn more about the Project SEARCH® program, contact Jimison at devonnej@southwesterncc.edu or 828.339.4486.

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