Project SEARCH Prepares For The Future

Project SEARCH Prepares For The Future

Adults in the Northland with developmental and intellectual disabilities can have the career they’ve always wanted. 

Project SEARCH and the School District of Superior have partnered to create a program that helps train and provide specific skills for those entering the real world. Established by a grant in 2020, Project SEARCH’s Gold Standard mission aims for adults to work in the community, work at least 16 hours a week, and at least make minimum wage. Along with the School District, Project SEARCH has partnered with other organizations in the Northland, including Embark Supported Employment and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

“I just love that it gives me something to do, and it will help me find a job in the future,” Project SEARCH Intern Susie Rabbitt said. “It’s a fun place to be at, and there are really nice people that help you learn new skills.”

Located within Essentia St. Mary’s-Superior Clinic, Project SEARCH is home to four interns who are between 18-45 years old. The program moved into the Superior Clinic during the summer of 2022.   

“It’s amazing to get to know the staff, get to know the building, to have a set structure of rules and values for the students to follow and to be integrated into this business,” Project SEARCH Instructor Emily Winker said. 

Inside the Superior hospital, Project SEARCH allows interns to work in almost every aspect of the building. Winker and Embark’s Skills Trainer Teddi Stewart work with each individual in the program to find the best three internships. The internships must be completed by the end of the academic year.   

“It’s been great. Seeing the interns come in very nervous, you expect one thing as a skills trainer and then actually watch them on the job, “said Stewart. “It’s like being a whole different person. I can’t wait until the end of the year to see how much they’ve grown.”  

A typical day for Project SEARCH consists of an hour class starting at 8 a.m. Winker and Stewart go over various topics, which include how to interview for a job, specific expectations while working, and much more. Following the class, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., interns are dismissed and join their respective teams. They will do their job, have lunch with the team, and receive instructor check-ins. At 3 p.m., the Project SEARCH crew comes back together and debriefs on the day.  

“We are giving them the skills they need to be successful,” said Winker. “We don’t want them to go back to high school because they are getting what they need to be independent young adults from us.” 

Over the course of three years, Project SEARCH has welcomed 15 interns to the program. During that time, 80 percent of those interns found work before or shortly after finishing the academic year. For the other 20 percent, most took their University of Wisconsin - White Water class credits and transferred to Northwoods Technical College’s hospitality program.   

“It has been so great to see this is an opportunity for these kids because they can work, and they want to work,” said Stewart. “I only hope more kids get involved and more people know about it. Project SEARCH can do so much for so many people.” 

Project SEARCH works with Wisconsin adults. They must live within an hour of the facility. Interns can also be high school seniors with a current or previous Individualized Education Program. Project SEARCH is a national organization that originates from Cincinnati, Ohio. The Superior location is just one of many in the country.   

Learn more about Superior’s Project SEARCH by clicking on this link for its website.  

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