Project SEARCH graduates 4 students at Merit Health River Region

Published 12:43 pm Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Project SEARCH at Merit Health River Region held its graduation ceremony on Monday evening at the hospital.

Four students, Santana Green, Lamar Deshazer,  Jason Lee and Christopher Lee, received their diplomas from the program, which consists of a nine-month internship and on-the-job medical training.

The program is designed to provide real-life work experience combined with training in employability and independent-living skills to young people with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 21. The goal is to make the students competitive for employment.

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Chris Howard, Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services (MDRS), addressed the audience at the event.

“These young adults are learning soft skills, they’re learning hard skills. They’re doing three job rotations throughout their internship, and then they’re also doing classroom hours,” Howard said. “So they’re working with the public, meeting new friends, learning job skills. That’s what this agency is all about. And now these young adults, after today, start making money.”

The students worked in several departments at the hospital throughout the course of their internships, including dietary, radiology and environmental services. Most of them will join the hospital as full-time employees.

The program is administered by the MDRS with partners from businesses and school districts. This is the third year it has been active in Warren County.

Several speakers at the event mentioned their pride in the achievements of the four students. Among them was Dr. Falanda Addison-Ross, Director of Special Education for Vicksburg Warren School District, who gave closing remarks at the ceremony.

“I cannot tell you all how much joy this program has brought to me as a special education director, to the community here in Vicksburg, the students, the parents, the families. They have hope, they have a life, they have independence,” Addison-Ross said. “And with that being said, I am so proud of you all for doing an amazing job.”

For more information about Project SEARCH at Merit Health River Region, visit their Facebook page at