Healthy You - Every Day

On Top of Spaghetti, All Covered with Cheese

The lessons of Project SEARCH run deeper than vocational rehabilitation alone

Clare Purcell knew she wanted to show her family, especially her parents, just how thankful she is for their ongoing support.

The 21-year-old from Minersville, among the first class of Project SEARCH Interns at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Schuylkill, talked with her instructors and hospital Executive Chef Ryan Stopp about learning how to make a spaghetti and meatballs dinner for her family, complete with garlic bread. “I want to help my mom and dad because they help me,” Purcell says.

Project SEARCH interns serve in areas including food services, guest services, patient transport, environmental services, radiology tech aide and supply chain.

Equipped with all the ingredients for her family dinner, Purcell arrived at the kitchen of LVH–Schuylkill to work with the chef and prepare a family dinner. Stopp and Purcell first reviewed the ingredients, discussed the recipes, washed their hands, donned their gloves and began making homemade meatballs.

“Clare has been great,” Stopp says. “She’s been fully engaged during her internship and has learned quite a bit in her time here. She has come out of her shell and has been hands on learning all the areas of food preparation at the hospital. She is just great.”

Project SEARCH is a transition-to-work program for young people with significant disabilities and is designed to immerse them into the workplace and provide them with on-site classroom instruction, career exploration and various worksite rotations. Upon completing Project SEARCH, participants continue to engage in activities that will help them to gain competitive employment. Project SEARCH was developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, which is still the administrative headquarters for the organization.

LVH–Schuylkill, working with the Intermediate Unit 29 in Marlin, Goodwill (Keystone area), SAM (Service Access & Management in partnership with Schuylkill County MH/DS), and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, began offering the program in September.

Jackie Chaney, a Project SEARCH skills trainer, noted Purcell’s progress has been terrific this year and she has already landed a job at a local establishment. As this first-year program begins to wind down, Chaney, working with Instructor Amanda Robinson and Patricia Socko, Supervisor, Guest Experience for LVH–Schuylkill, are preparing for the second group of interns, expected to be six or seven. The interns serve in areas including food services, guest services, patient transport, environmental services, radiology tech aide and supply chain.

As for Purcell, she completed two internships this year at the hospital, with food and nutrition services being the most recent. “I never cooked dinner before and now here I am,” she says. Her plan was to serve the family favorite to mom and dad, her brother, sister and sister’s boyfriend.


Lehigh Valley Health Network is eager to offer you the opportunity to learn at one of Pennsylvania’s largest teaching hospitals.

Explore More Articles