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Project SEARCH gives internship opportunities to people with disabilities

Story By Lilly Zoller
Local News Published 10/20/2021 5:28PM, Last Updated 10/23/2021 11:24AM
Woodruff - "I just like my job," said Jonathan Ankrom, an intern in the Project SEARCH program.
Ankrom is one of seven interns in the Project SEARCH program at Howard Young Medical Center. His job is to wash the ambulances and other vehicles at the hospital.

"It's important for the community here in northern Wisconsin," said Ankrom.
But washing ambulances isn't the only work opportunity the interns get.

"All seven interns are in seven unique, different rotations throughout the hospital that afford them the ability to develop different skills," said Ben Hecke, the employment services supervisor for Opportunity Development Centers.
Interns at the hospital go through daily rotations of cleaning, sanitizing, stocking, and delivering.

"The Project SEARCH Program goal is basically that it's a transition into the work world for these individuals," said Rod Olson, an instructor at Project SEARCH.
These are individuals with significant disabilities. The idea is to prepare them to get a job with the marketable and competitive skills they learn through Project SEARCH. It seems like this is working.
"By the end of it they really have transitioned into adults that are ready to go out into the community and work, and they have become essential parts of a lot of our businesses where at the end of the year everybody is like 'Please don't leave us. We want you to stay,'" said Paige Parr, the statewide coordinator for Project SEARCH.
Interns go on to get jobs at places like grocery stores and medical facilities. The Project SEARCH website reports nearly 80 percent of those who have graduated from the program go on to find employment.

"You think you might have an idea of what an intern is capable of, and then all the sudden you find out they're capable of so much more and they surprise you in the most pleasant ways," said Hecke. 
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