By Dillon Thomas

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– In an effort to encourage young adults with disabilities to enter the workforce, those with University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora participated in “Project SEARCH.”

The program accepted applicants with disabilities who were between their time in high school and the workforce.

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Accepted applicants were given internships at the hospital in Aurora, working in a variety of environments. Some were assigned to food service, while others were assigned to medical floors like the transplant unit.

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“We work all day,” said Megan Wright, one of the participants.

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When Wright started her position in the OBGYN and Transplant units, employees described her as reserved and limited in speech. Wright has hearing and vision challenges and is often shy.

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However, her hidden talents were soon exposed by her co-workers.

“It was just sort of an energy and a feeling,” said Lindsay McGuiness, Nurse Manager at UCH.

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As an intern, Wright served in many capacities. Much of her time was spent compiling packets for patients and stocking linens throughout the transplant unit.

“I do all that work,” Wright told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.

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“Often times, we will stop and take a breather and touch base,” McGuiness said. “And, (Megan) is sweating, and working really hard to keep us stocked.”

The staff said Wright’s positive attitude and contagious giggle became a favorite among the staff.

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“If it is 10 a.m. on one of the days she is scheduled to be here, and she is not here, everybody is like, ‘Where is Megan?’” McGuiness said. “She always has a smile on her face.”

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Over time, McGuiness said Wright’s personality blossomed. Through personal connections with the staff, Wright’s vocabulary among strangers increased, and she became more engaged with those in the hospital.

“I often find her helping patients, and visitors, who may be lost or needing direction,” McGuiness said.

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It was her positive attitude and work ethic that landed Wright the surprise of her year.

“We can’t bear the thought of not seeing her again, after (graduation),” McGuiness said. “So, we are really excited to offer her a permanent job here with us at the transplant unit.”

Before a room of nurses and hospital staff, Wright giggled as she accepted her first job in a hospital.

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Wright was also given her own personal cart to assist her in her job of stocking linens throughout the transplant floor. Her cart was bedazzled with her name and her favorite color of purple. The staff on the transplant floor gave it to her as a gift.

Nearly 10 participants graduated from Project SEARCH at UCH on Thursday. Each graduate thrived in the hospital with unique challenges of their own.

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Some were given interviews within the hospital, others had accepted jobs at companies like King Soopers.

Those involved with the project said they were happy to see the first graduating class was given the opportunity to bolster their skills in a real-world work environment.

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“I think that this program has really shown that there is opportunity for anyone to come in and play a huge role in really supporting patient care,” McGuiness said.

The internship program lasted 10 months. Staff at UCH told CBS4 they looked forward to have a second group of interns enter the program at the beginning of the next school year, in August.

Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.

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