Project SEARCH Graduation Celebrated at Marshfield Medical Center

Program Provides Career Experience to Special Needs Adults

Today, eight individuals graduated from Project SEARCH – the first group to graduate since Marshfield Medical Center purchased St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The Project SEARCH Adult Transition Program is a unique, business led, school-to- work program that takes place at Marshfield Medical Center (formerly Ministry St Joseph’s Hospital). Through total workplace immersion, students experience a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through three unpaid internships.

Developed in 1996 by Nurse J. Erin Riehle, then the Director of the Emergency Department at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Project SEARCH has grown from one original program to 293 programs across 42 states and four other countries.

In its seventh year in Marshfield, according to Chief Administrative Officer Ned Wolf, Marshfield Medical Center did not hesitate to take over the program after purchasing Ministry St Joseph’s Hospital last year.

Wolf, and Delora Newton, DVR Administrator, gave a warm welcome to those in attendance for the celebration.

“These graduation ceremonies truly represent the value of participating in Project SEARCH. Everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed,” said Newton. “I want to congratulate and recognize our interns.”

Anne Dick, Project SEARCH instructor/coordinator, and Mary Blanchard, Opportunity Development Center Employment Resource Manager, recapped the 2017-2018 program.

Dick shed tears as she highlighted each graduate’s accomplishments and recalled a special moment she had experienced with each of them. Blanchard also became emotional as she recapped a recent encounter with a Project SEARCH graduate and celebrated the accomplishments of the new graduates.

“Today is certainly a celebration of what these past nine months have been,” said Blanchard. “As parents, we all want our children to succeed. We want them to feel a sense of worth and be proud of the work they do.”

Project SEARCH interns, who are between the ages of 18—24 years-old, are onsite at the hospital for nine months between September and May. The goal of the program is to teach employability skills to individuals with disabilities and to gain future employment in the community.

Interns recognized were Airika Straka, Alex Mowbray, Ariel Keller, Ashley Pawlowicz, Cali Busche, Gabie Welsh, Jordanah Pankratz, and Paul Sprotte. Each completed three individual internships through the program.

Other speakers at graduation included Keresa Kilty, Rikki Starich, Luann Pyan, Debbie Meyer, Tonya Glamann, Betty Peterson, and Andrea Whitrock. Each spoke about the interns they worked with and how they made a different during their time here.

Kilty, Volunteer Services Manager, spoke about three interns: Mowbray, Pawlowicz, and Sprotte.

“We were lucky to have not one…not two…but three interns in our department,” she said. Mowbray will be working at Festival Foods after graduation. Pawlowicz will be continuing her education and pursuing part time work. Sprotte will be increasing his hours at Kwik Trip.

Starich, representing Marshfield Clinic Health Systems Foundation, spoke about Welsh, and presented Shining Star pins to both her and Mowbray.

“The work that you are doing matters, you are important, and we are proud of you,” she said.

After graduation, Welsh will be working at Changes Within.

Pyan and Meyer, MMC Messengers, spoke about Keller and her skills as an elevator operator.

“She’s always smiling,” said Meyer. “Ariel took pride in completing the various duties as elevator operator. She wished each passenger to have a great day. She was compassionate as she gave directions.”

Pyan praised her skills in customer service and applauded her ever-present smile.

The morning of graduation, Keller was offered and accepted a job as elevator operator for the clinic – an announcement met with a burst of applause from those in attendance.

Glamann, representing Bright Horizons Child Care Center, praised Pankratz’s work with preschool children at the center.

“Jordanah, I’m so proud of the hard work and attention you provided the little ones that looked up to you,” she said. “You are a role model for those children. You may be quiet, but your impact is grand.”

After graduation, Pankratz will be working at ABC Child Care Center and plans to continue her education to obtain a Head Child Care Teacher certificate.

Peterson, from MMC Food & Nutrition, spoke about Busche and her can-do attitude.

“We didn’t have to tell her what to do. She just started doing it,” said Peterson. “We appreciate what she has brought to our workplace and her good, solid, positive attitude.”

Busche has accepted a position in the Food and Nutrition department at MMC.

Representing MMC Environmental Services, Whitrock shared her experiences with Straka in that department.

“The work Airika completed was critical,” she said. “Anyone who works on a nursing unit knows it can get very hectic. It takes a very mindful approach. Airika has done a great job. I’m extremely excited to say that Airika was hired to join our team!”

Certificates and diplomas were presented by Dr. William Greb (Auburndale School District), Marcia Diedrich and Nicole Schalow (Colby School District), Jason Wilhelm (Marshfield School District), Tonia Anderson (Neillsville School District), Jill Schultz (Spencer School District), Kathy Ballerstein and Denise Marg (Stratford School District), and Anne Dick on behalf of Clair DuCharme (UW-Whitewater). Jason Wilhem, Marshfield High School Principal, gave the closing address.

To find out more about Project SEARCH: www.projectsearch.us