Mercy Fort Smith interns who were part of the Project SEARCH Arkansas: ACCESS Initiative celebrated their graduation on June 11.
Project SEARCH Arkansas: ACCESS Initiative is a partnership with Arkansas Rehabilitation Services that provides internships for adults ages 18-35 who have disabilities.
The nine interns spent the past nine months working at various departments at Mercy Fort Smith, including environmental services, patient transport, laboratory, Mercy Fitness Center and more. Several of the graduates have already secured jobs following their internships.
Interns received their diplomas during a ceremony at the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith. Family, friends and Mercy leaders were on hand for the celebration.
Graduates are Hailey Byers, Andrea Ceynar, Eric Clifton, Amairani Felix-Juarez, Michael Gray, Lauryn Langston, Shaunae Owens, Joseph Smalley and Luke Udouj.
“It takes a team to make something like this really work well,” said Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Hospital Fort Smith. “Because of this partnership, this has far exceeded our expectations. We absolutely love this program, and we love each one of you.”
Gehrig thanked all the Mercy co-workers who made the program a success, and he shared comments about each intern from their Mercy supervisors.
“Jesus reminds us, ‘Blessed are those who give rather than receive.’ And I think when we began this journey, we thought we were giving. There’s no doubt, we’re the ones receiving.”
Each graduate spoke during the ceremony and offered thanks to their Mercy supervisors. Project SEARCH graduate Eric Clifton said the program offered him the chance of a lifetime.
“Without Project SEARCH, I would not have gotten the skills I have today,” he said, adding that he has been offered a position that he can’t wait to start.
Shaunae Owens thanked her family and friends for the support she got during the internship.
“Mercy’s Project SEARCH is a good program to me as far as getting the experience you need,” she said. “The internship got me out of my comfort zone and helped me develop job skills. The people at Mercy Fort Smith Project SEARCH care and are very supportive.”
Joseph Smalley said the program has opened doors for new opportunities for him. He interned at Mercy Fitness Center, which he said he enjoyed because staff members made it fun.
“I’d like to thank my skills trainers who believed in me and set me up for success. I could not have done it without you guys,” he said.