ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Six students graduated from a program that helps those with cognitive disabilities find jobs.

“It’s awesome to see how much they’ve grown since the beginning to now, and watching them become as independent as possible. It’s really beautiful to see,” said Jessica Ingenito, a teacher with Project SEARCH.

Mercyhealth hosted the 2023 Project SEARCH graduation ceremony on Thursday, a school-to-work transition program.

Graduate Shawtay Sciortino said she came into the program to become a CNA, but the program inspired a passion for environmental services.

“I learn new things and every internship, the most I learned was environmental services,” she said.

In the internship program, each student goes through 3 ten week rotations in three different departments.

“I would come in, get to the class, get my computer, do all the class stuff, and then go out into my department do all of the department staff,” Sciortino said.

Ingenito said the program gives students training and education to prepare them to be employees.

“We help them get jobs and then, once they have a job, we stay with them for another 90 days to ensure that they’re really happy with what they’re doing,” Ingenito said.

She said she hopes others will see how the graduates are a great addition to the workforce.

“People with disabilities are just as…helpful and creative as anybody else out in the world,” she said.

Sciortino is now officially working at Mercyhealth Environmental Services.