Student Interns Explore Career Options Through Project SEARCH

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (October 20, 2016) –  A group of 11 student interns recently began a unique opportunity to explore a variety of career paths as participants in Project SEARCH, a national nonprofit program that creates business-based internships for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Project SEARCH Asheville is a collaboration between Mission Health, The Arc of North Carolina, AB Tech, Vocational Rehabilitation, Vaya Health, and TEACCH Autism Program.  The ARC of North Carolina received the program grant from the N.C. Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Mission Health and AB Tech are implementing the program.  Vaya Health will provide long-term vocational supports for the graduates and is also helping to support the instructors’ pay and other program expenses.

Through identified work sites within Mission Hospital, the interns – who are between the ages of 18 and 30 – get an intensive learning experience and total immersion in the workplace on their path to career development and self-sufficiency.

“Mission Hospital is so pleased to be western North Carolina’s newest host site for Project SEARCH,” said Tommasanne Davis, Director of Talent Acquisition and Career Exploration for Mission Health.  “In partnership with A-B Tech and several community organizations, we have been granted a wonderful opportunity to strengthen our workplace culture, get help with many essential tasks, and make a difference in the lives of some extraordinary young people.”

Student interns work with a team that includes their family, their Project SEARCH instructor, and a vocational rehabilitation counselor to create an employment goal during this important transition from school to work.  The interns begin their day in an hour-long class learning employment skills then move to their internship assignment.  At the end of the day, they return to the training room to reflect on their day, discuss any challenges, and evaluate their progress.

“Through our collaboration with Mission Health and the ARC of NC, Project SEARCH assists A-B Tech students with disabilities to bridge the gap between education and employment by providing a hands-on, supported training opportunity designed to prepare them for competitive employment. This program is a prime example of community partners coming together to leverage resources and provide these students with the critical skills they need to make their own valuable contribution to the local workforce,”  said Karen Pauly, Director, Department of Transitional Studies.

Participants gain unique benefits from immersion in host businesses.

“We’ve seen participants gain unique benefits from their immersion in the host business,” said Vaya Health Employment Specialist Kari Kopp. “Not only do they gain marketable skills, they also gain additional opportunities in life, including the opportunity to be seen as who they are – valuable members of society.”

To learn more about Project SEARCH, please visit

About Mission Health

Mission Health, based in Asheville, North Carolina, is the state’s sixth-largest health system and was recognized as one of the nation’s Top 15 Health Systems from 2012-2015 by Truven Health Analytics, formerly Thomson Reuters, becoming the only health system in North Carolina to achieve this recognition. Mission Health operates six hospitals, numerous outpatient and surgery centers, post- acute care provider CarePartners, long-term acute care provider Asheville Specialty Hospital, and the region’s only dedicated Level II trauma center. With approximately 10,700 employees and 2,000 volunteers, Mission Health is dedicated to improving the health and wellness of the people of western North Carolina. For more information, please visit or @MissionHealthNC.

About Vaya Health
Vaya Health manages public funds for mental health issues, substance use disorder and intellectual and developmental disability services in Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey counties in North Carolina. Access to care and crisis assistance is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-800-849-6127. Visit us at online at

About A-B Tech

One of 58 colleges in the North Carolina Community College System, A-B Tech offers associate degrees, diplomas and certificates in more than 60 curriculum programs through its five academic divisions: Allied Health and Public Service Education, Arts and Sciences, Business and Hospitality Education, Emergency Services and Engineering and Applied Technology. The Division of Economic and Workforce Development/Continuing Education offers opportunities for workforce partnerships, specific job training and retraining, as well as personal enrichment classes. A-B Tech enrolls more than 25,000 curriculum and continuing education students in programs at its Asheville, Enka, Madison, South, Woodfin and Goodwill locations.

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