Project SEARCH Helps Build a Stronger Workforce in the Stateline


    The pride Intern Emily Minnick takes in her job is unmistakable. She’s part of Project SEARCH, a ten month school to work program for young adult students with disabilities.

    Emily is one of twelve interns who work in various departments at Mercyhealth Hospital-Rockton Avenue. Her job is in central distribution.

    She says, “I grab a cart and fill it up with items and then I bring it back up to the front and we bag it and box it. Then we ship it out to different areas of the hospital.”

    Emily’s day also includes classroom instruction.

    Project SEARCH Instructor Nate Loft says, “I like to think as like a college program. I’m telling them this isn’t high school anymore. It’s kind of a change of mindset.”

    All to prepare them for finding a good job at the end of the school year.

    RAMP Executive Director Julie Bosma says, “Yes they could go out and get an entry level job somewhere and work. But this just raises the glass ceiling for them . And it just gives them an opportunity above and beyond that. Because they’re learning real life job skills.”

    Each intern has a mentor and a manger in the department where they work. They return to the classroom at the end of the day to talk about how their day went.

    Loft says, “We talk about competitive workforce skills. And they are in internships that any high school student would be very grateful and appreciative to have the opportunity.”

    Loft says his goal is for 100% employment for these interns. He also hopes more local companies will take notice. “These are so much more than people with different needs. They’re great workers. And they’re an asset to the workforce and the departments they’re working for.”

     Bosma says, “The expectations are real. The consequences are real. And the difference we’re making in people’s lives is real.” Emily is proof of that.

    She says the work gives her more than a leg up. She says, “Cause it makes me feel special. They know that I’m a good employee. I follow the rules and do what I’m told.”

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