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Cerebral palsy, autism, blindness don't keep interns from job opportunities at Vanderbilt

Posted: 6:27 AM, Feb 20, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-20 14:13:11-05
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Young adults with disabilities are getting jobs at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

In 15 years, Vanderbilt has hired 40 people with disabilities who have successfully completed a school to work transition program called Project SEARCH.

"Unfortunately, our individuals don't get a fair shake a lot of times in what they're pursuing for jobs, but here at Vanderbilt there is an incredible opportunity to be immersed in the workplace," Brandon Pflug said.

Pflug is an instructor with Project SEARCH at Vanderbilt.

"[Students] can participate in an internship where they are doing exactly what others are doing in the department," Pflug said.

There are currently 10 interns in the program. They attend six-hour training sessions Monday through Friday. Interns must be 18 years or older, have met high school certificate/diploma requirements, be eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation Services and have a desire to work.

Rinetta Taylor graduated from the program eleven years ago. She is now employed with dining services at the Children's Hospital.

"I love it," Taylor said.

Taylor, 33, has cerebral palsy and a specific learning disability. She was born premature and weighed only one pound. Taylor spent time in the NICU at Vanderbilt.

"They didn't think I was going to make it... look at me now," Taylor said.

The program does give families of current patients new hope.

"I've brought this up to many families before," Nurse Leader Marlee Crankshaw said. "Not only [do I] take care of the babies, but I'm privileged to make an impact on the family hopefully."

If you are interested in learning more about Project SEARCH at Vanderbilt contact Pam Hollingsworth at p.hollingsworth@progress-inc.org.