Interns with disabilities are finding jobs in Wisconsin

When I started at Easter Seals over 12 years ago, I never pictured myself involved with graduation ceremonies for young adults. It never occurred to me that one day I would be part of sending young adults into the work world, but here I am!

Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin has two Project Search sites in our area, and last week we had two completion ceremonies for our 24 Project SEARCH interns.

Project SEARCH is an exciting transition program for young adults with disabilities, and we collaborate with local businesses to provide employment skill building through internship rotations there.

In addition to the job skills learned in the internship, the classroom curriculum gives interns pointers on:

  • appropriate interpersonal skills with supervisors and co-workers
  • resume writing
  • job searching
  • how to apply for a job
  • how to understand what employers are looking for
  • understanding company policies
  • attendance, honesty and appropriate dress codes

During the ceremonies, each intern shares what they have learned over the last nine months. The interns are always a little nervous about speaking, but you can feel their well-deserved pride, and their stories never cease to amaze me.

What made this year particularly special were the VIPs in the room. Governor Scott Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch keynoted these ceremonies as part of the Administration’s adoption of the “Better Bottom Line,” a year-long focus on employing individuals with disabilities in Wisconsin.

One goal of Better Bottom Line is to triple the number of Project SEARCH sites in our state, and we all learned how well Project SEARCH is working already: three interns announced they were starting jobs that very day.

Having the VIPs there was very special, but the very best part was looking around these large conference rooms (they can hold over 150 people) and seeing every seat filled and people standing at the back of the room! We were joined by family, mentors from our employer host sites, senior managers and volunteers.

I thought the atmosphere, the support and the experience of those ceremonies perfectly reinforced the message the founder of Easter Seals gave us nearly 100 years ago: “Your life and mine should be valued not by what we take… but by what we give.”


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