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Area interns part of first Project SEARCH graduating class

Pictured are the Inaugural Project SEARCH interns from the 2015-16 program, who will graduate June 2, including Jesse Peterson (River Falls), Sam Ramisch (New Richmond), Katie Evenson (Baldwin), Lucas Alzen (Roberts), Katelynd Nelson (River Falls), Madelyne Moutray (front – River Falls), Zach Brennan (behind – Somerset), Lauryn Nygaard (River Falls), Cody Weismann (Roberts), Mike Fugate (River Falls), Colin Johnson (River Falls). (Submitted photo)

A graduation ceremony this June will celebrate the abilities of 11 young people who have helped a community think differently about disability.

On Thursday, June 2 at River Falls Area Hospital, 11 people with disabilities aged 18-25 will become the first graduating class of the River Falls Project SEARCH program.

Project SEARCH is an international internship program which enables students with disabilities gain real-life, transferrable job skills. It was held in River Falls for the first time in the 2015-2016 school year as a partnership between the host site – River Falls Area Hospital, part of Allina Health – and the community partners supporting the student interns: Bridge for Community Life, River Falls and Ellsworth school districts, TMG, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and ContinuUs.

Students participated in three rotations of approximately three months each during the school year, working in hospital departments including nutrition services, Emergency Department, housekeeping, environmental services, Medical-Surgical Unit, administration and more.

Sam Ramisch, an intern from New Richmond who will graduate from the program June 2, said: “Project SEARCH is an excellent post-secondary program for young adults with disabilities. It really teaches the skills and provides the support that people like me need to succeed in today’s competitive job market.”

Ramisch has secured a front desk position in New Richmond, which will start upon his graduation from Project SEARCH. He was inspired to apply for the position thanks to the skills he had acquired during his internship rotations in the Administration and Human Resources departments at River Falls Area Hospital.

In addition to the 25 hours per week of work experience they gain in the hospital, the interns spend 1.5 hours per day in the classroom, acquiring skills to help them find employment after graduation from the program such as mock interviews, resume preparation, planning and managing their career, problem solving, critical thinking and effective communication.

Zach Brennan, from Somerset, Wis., reported that he felt he was “treated fairly” during his River Falls Project SEARCH internship. He completed rotations in the Laundry and Facilities departments and Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute-River Falls.

Cody Weismann, from Roberts, Wis., worked in Materials Management, Facilities and Environmental Services departments during his internship and secured a position at a store in New Richmond upon his graduation from Project SEARCH.

In addition to working their rotations, the interns interacted socially with employees both on and off campus, celebrating birthdays, going-away parties, baby showers, Special Olympics events and bingo. Interns also represented River Falls Area Hospital alongside employees at events including the Relay for Life, River Falls Days parade, Pierce County Fair and more.

Project SEARCH will continue for a second year at River Falls Area Hospital in September. For more details on the program, contact Fabreann Buffington at 715-307-6023 or fabreann.buffington@rfsd.k12.wi.us.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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