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Project SEARCH students graduate with jobs

Twenty years ago, Bradford Hulcher wouldn’t have believed that her son, Sam, would have a job after high school.

But earlier this month, after graduating from the yearlong Project SEARCH internship program, Sam Hulcher and six other young adults with autism from Henrico County were offered jobs at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital.

“I’m just so excited,” Bradford Hulcher said.

Project SEARCH is a national program that provides internships for high school students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to help them develop skills and work experience. Of 200 programs nationwide, St. Mary’s is the only one that works exclusively with only autistic students and involves a research component, said Paul Wehman of the Virginia Commonwealth University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center.

“This was a novel idea,” Wehman said. The grant to fund the St. Mary’s program is designed to study the effectiveness of this program compared to in-school programs offered by public schools. Every year, the program’s interns have been hired after its conclusion, he said.

“The other two years we’d done this, I’ve thought, ‘Yes this is why I’ve been in this field so long,’” Wehman said of the program’s success. “No matter how many books I write or papers, this basically affirms what we’re about.”

During the graduation, Wheman told students that the day was theirs.

“You’re heroes, pioneers and champions,” he said. “You did it. It doesn’t just happen. You did it because you joined hands.”

Participating students gave up their final year of high school, which by law they can attend until they are 21 years old, to apply for the program. Those accepted were chosen randomly from the pool of applicants, said Steven Harris, whose son, Sean, applied twice.

“We had talked to his teachers through- out the years about life after high school, and like they said, this was an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “We’re very thankful to his teachers for encouraging us to do this. They said it would be a good fit for him. I’ve been a blubbering idiot the whole time. I feel so strongly today.”

Sean Harris was one of four students selected from Deep Run High School.

“We were just really lucky this year to have so many of our students be chosen,” said Linda Maillet, Sean Harris’ exceptional education teacher from Deep Run, who attended the ceremony.

Former Deep Run student Brittany Lott said she had learned how to be independent through the program. Her father, Milton Randall, said that he felt exhilarated after the ceremony.

“You know she’s really come a long way,” he said. “When she left Deep Run there was a lot of apprehension there. . . She’s just matured over the course of the year here.”

Nurse Manager Cynthia Rogers said she had begged for an intern every year and that her staff misses the interns when they’re not there. “So I’m hiring,” she said enthusiastically.

Interns have worked with more than 60 departments in the hospital, including the cardiovascular and telemetry services department, in which Rogers works.

When asked what she would tell parents or others considering the St. Mary’s program, she said, “I think the big thing is to give them a chance, because we were really amazed at what they were able to do when given the chance, and now I’m not sure we can function without them.”

St. Mary’s CEO Toni Ardabell, who surprised parents and students alike by announcing that the students would start work in the fall if they chose, thanked the students for their contributions.

“You taught us more than you expected,” she said. “Thank you for teaching us patience and determination.”
Community

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Extras sought for AMC’s ‘TURN’

Paid extras are being sought to appear in the AMC television series TURN: Washington's Spies, which will begin filming its second season in the Richmond area at the end of September and continue through February.

No experience is required, but producers say that extras must have flexible availability, reliable transportation and a positive attitude.

Arvold Casting is holding an open call on Sunday, Sept. 21 and is seeking men, women and children who are Caucasian, African American and Native American, with thin to average builds and who can realistically portray people living in Revolutionary War times. Long hair is a plus but not a must. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


TGIF! Celebrate the weekend at Oak Hall Baptist Church’s Community Block Party on Saturday. Learn more about ballroom dancing, art and Colonial times. Or take the kids to Generation Z Games for water play or Southern Season to cook up a Disney-theme meal. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 1800 Lakeside Ave., will hold a fall plant sale from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 19 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 20. Regional… Full text

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