News Release
Posted by The MolinaCares Accord

The MolinaCares Accord and Project SEARCH Launch Employment Training for Native American Young Adults in Shiprock

Media Contact: Caroline Zubieta, Caroline.Zubieta@MolinaHealthCare.Com, (562) 951-1588

SHIPROCK, N.M. May 20, 2024 – The MolinaCares Accord (“MolinaCares”), in collaboration with Molina Healthcare of New Mexico (“Molina”), has partnered with Project SEARCH to bring its employment training program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to Shiprock, a community of the Navajo Nation. Through the MolinaCares for Families initiative, Molina donated $20,000 to Project SEARCH in late 2022 to support the opening of a project site that will benefit the Native American youth population in the rural, majority Tribal area of the state.

The labor participation rate for individuals with disabilities is 24.5%, a staggering difference from those without disabilities, which sits at 68%. The employment training program is especially important for the San Juan County area where Shiprock is located, in which the poverty rate sits at 24.3%, far higher than the U.S. average of 12.8% and New Mexico average of 17.7%. An estimated 70% of Project SEARCH interns at seven other sites in New Mexico achieve competitive, integrated, employment at the end of the program year – demonstrating the impact of the program. The New Mexico sites are a collaboration among local school districts, employers, the New Mexico Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), and University of New Mexico’s Partners for Employment (PFE) program which coordinate the sites and builds statewide program capacity. 

Central Consolidated School District (CCSD) in Shiprock will be the host of the new program, providing training opportunities for this year’s Project SEARCH interns. Together, CCSD and Project SEARCH hosted an intern acceptance and signing event on Thursday, May 16 to welcome their initial cohort of four interns to the program. Prior to signing, each intern participated in skills assessments and oral interviews to gauge their command of skills necessary for certain internship opportunities and determine their placement. 

“Molina is proud to partner with Project SEARCH in bringing this life-changing program to Native American young adults with disabilities in northwestern New Mexico,” said Carolyn Ingram, plan president of Molina Healthcare of New Mexico. “We congratulate the newly signed interns and cheer them on as they begin building their successful careers.”

Interns in the Project SEARCH program are typically 18-22 years old with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have received special education and who have completed their academic requirements for a high school diploma or a certificate of completion. Project SEARCH interns receive training in real-life work experiences and independent living skills, working for nine months exploring career options and training in various workplace environments prior to entering the workforce. 

“We are thrilled to be starting the first MolinaCares-funded Project SEARCH site with our first New Mexico cohort in Shiprock,” said Erin Riehle, co-founder and director of Project SEARCH. “We are grateful for Molina’s support and their vision for a healthier, more successful, and accessible New Mexico for all. We know that rural communities—especially those in tribal areas—face far greater rates of poverty and unemployment, and only by working collaboratively can we provide the right resources, empowerment, and access to career training to help all New Mexicans with disabilities thrive.”  

About The MolinaCares Accord   

Established by Molina Healthcare, Inc., The MolinaCares Accord oversees a community investment platform created to improve the health and well-being of disadvantaged populations by funding meaningful, measurable, and innovative programs and solutions that improve health, life, and living in local communities. The MolinaCares Accord funds such measures through the Molina Healthcare Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) established in 2020 by Molina Healthcare, Inc. 

About Molina Healthcare of New Mexico 

Molina Healthcare of New Mexico has been providing government-funded, quality health care since 1998. The Company serves members through Medicare and Health Insurance Marketplace programs throughout New Mexico. Molina Healthcare served approximately 5 million members as of December 31, 2023, located across 19 states. For more information about Molina Healthcare of New Mexico, visit

About Project SEARCH

The Project SEARCH model was developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is currently in operation at 707 program sites in the U.S. and around the world and has served approximately 38,000 young adults with disabilities since 2010. An estimated 70% of program graduates achieve competitive, integrated employment, earning at least the minimum wage and working at least 16 hours per week. To learn more, visit