BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Blount County Schools is helping students with disabilities transition to adult life after high school. 

A job training program that prepares young people with disabilities for success in the workforce helped Project SEARCH graduates Dylan Pizzutiello and Emily Wynn find employment.

Tammy Hearon launched the Project SEARCH program in Blount County Schools eight years ago.

During that time, all 43 interns were offered jobs and 39 are still employed.

“I love Project SEARCH because there is a smooth transition, and it changes interns’ and families’ lives so that they can be successful and be part of the group,” said Hearon, instructor of Project SEARCH.

The one-year employment preparation program typically serves students in their last year of high school eligibility.

The interns get hands-on training through worksite rotations with local employers including Hilton, Maryville College Metz Cafe and Blount Memorial Hospital.

“They work really hard like you have really great teachers that work together with the students which is like definitely something that a lot of students need because a lot of students go at their own pace at Project SEARCH,” said Pizzutiello.

Wynn and Pizzutiello work in the cafeteria at William Blount High School.

Pizzutiello is in charge of cleaning the dishes but the two friends both help serve meals and stock the cooler and snack bar.

“Project SEARCH helped me get this job and everything else and without them, I probably would not be here,” said Wynn.

Hearon says there is nothing better in this world than seeing a student succeed and knowing that you helped.

“Many times, when we go out for interviews the interns won’t even ask what they pay rate is — I will ask it for them — because they are so happy just to be part of the group and be employed and be in the community working, so I think that I have the best job in Blount County,” said Hearon.

The job training program at Blount County Schools has a high rate of success. All eight of this year’s participants graduated with jobs last month.