Project Search Job Training Program Celebrates Nine Graduates

On May 15 our resort was so proud to honor nine wonderful students from 4 different high schools in Sevier County who graduated from our Project SEARCH Job Training Program.

This is the fifth graduating class for our Project SEARCH Job Training Program. Over the past five years our resort, working in partnership with Sevier County School District and The Access Program has trained and supported 31 students with disabilities. Of those students, 13 are still employed at our resort and 17 are working at different businesses in the area.

This year’s graduation include: Sandra, who will be working at our off-site laundry facility; Pamela, who will be working in Guest Services; Noah, who will be joining the team at Food City; Madison and Blake, who will be working in our Camp Social food hall; Carly, who will be working at Dollywood; Adam, who will be working on our grounds team; Brink, who will be working in our Adventure Forest; and Eric, who will be working in our Hidden Trails restaurant.

There are currently 711 Project SEARCH programs worldwide. Our program is the only one in Sevier County and one of 19 in Tennessee.

According to Jennifer Jeffers from Project SEARCH, “The Project SEARCH model involves an extensive period of skills training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, long-term job coaching, and continuous feedback from teachers, skills trainers, and employers. As a result, at the completion of the training program, students are employed in nontraditional, complex and rewarding jobs. In addition, the presence of a Project SEARCH program has brought about long-term changes in business culture that have far-reaching positive effects on attitudes about hiring people with disabilities and the range of jobs in which they can be successful.”

Jenny, our human resources director and business liaison for Project SEARCH says, “It has been an absolutely wonderful experience over the past five years to see the students involved in this program thrive and their confidence skyrocket. It has been incredibly rewarding for all of our staff involved in this program to help these students grow. It is truly a win/win situation for everyone.”

The resort offers job training opportunities in seven different hospitality related departments and it can expose Project SEARCH student interns to up to 16 different career opportunities. Based on their interests and skills, most students spend nine weeks in three different departments over the course of the school year.

In spring, the interns can apply for jobs and are offered support as needed during the hiring and training process. In each setting, new skills are developed, but the larger picture is about finding our purpose and place in the world to feel important and belong to something.  This year 7 of the 9 graduates will be hired by the resort.

For more information on Project Search, please contact Jennifer Jeffers, [email protected]