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Project SEARCH partners with Essentia Health in Superior

Students will rotate through three different internships at the hospital.

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Essentia Health-St. Mary's Hospital in Superior.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — The Superior School District’s Project SEARCH, an immersive school-to-work program for young adults with disabilities in Douglas County, has partnered with a new host organization, Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Hospital in Superior, starting in the 2022-2023 school year.

In addition to direct classroom instruction, interns will rotate through three internship sites at the hospital to put their newly learned skills to practice. This combination of instruction and practice will allow the young adults to graduate and become competitively employed in their communities.

Superior’s Project SEARCH program, which launched in 2020, has graduated two classes of students. Three of the four young adults who took part in the inaugural class, 2020-2021, have secured employment. By the time the “22 Crew” graduated in June, two of the four had already found jobs in the community and a third was expecting a call for his start date with Ravin Crossbows.

The success of the program led the school district to launch a precursor to Project SEARCH, called Project LIFE, in January. The course is offered to juniors and seniors in high school through their Individualized Education Program.

The Superior Business Center provided classroom space for Project SEARCH during its first two years, and tenant Environmental Control and Testing offered internships to students. The school district and other local businesses, including Ravin Crossbows, Screen Graphics and Kwik Trip, provided additional internship opportunities. With Essentia Health as a host, all the internship options will be available under one roof.

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“Essentia is honored to partner with Superior Public Schools on such a worthy project,” said Essentia Health spokesperson Louie St. George III. “We are always looking for ways to make a positive impact in the communities we’re privileged to serve, and this is a great opportunity to do exactly that by helping young adults develop real-life skills.”

Project SEARCH is an international program serving young adults with barriers to employment in 48 states and nine countries around the world. The program uses research-based instruction on employability skills and hands-on practice to help interns prepare to be employed competitively in their communities upon graduation. Additional instruction is given on topics such as financial management, daily living skills, physical and emotional wellness, and interpersonal skills.

The acronym SEARCH (Students Exploring Alternative Resources at Children’s Hospital) dates back to the original program, which was launched at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996. Holly Opatick with the national SEARCH office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said the program has since expanded, but the name stuck.

“We even tried to change once but by that time people knew the program as Project SEARCH,” she said. “Currently, the letters in ‘SEARCH’ don’t really stand for anything — except to remind people of the goal of building skills and the goal of meaningful competitive employment.”

Visit the Project Search Superior-Essentia Health Facebook page , contact Shawn Anderson, shawna.anderson@superior.k12.wi.us or Emily Winker, emily.winker@superior.k12.wi.us for more information.

Students with disabilities who are interested in becoming a student intern through Project SEARCH should contact their special education teacher or their school district’s special education coordinator to obtain application information.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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