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Project SEARCH helps promote workforce inclusiveness

Amanda Blodgett receives her graduation certificate on May 29 at Aurora BayCare Medical Center. Kris Leonhardt photo

By Kris Leonhardt

Editor-in-chief

GREEN BAY – Two graduation events were held May 28-29 in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to celebrate employment opportunities for young adults with disabilities created through Project SEARCH.

The May 28 graduation event celebrated the experiences of seven interns at Bellin Health and HSHS St. Vincent Hospital.

The second event highlighted six interns at Aurora BayCare Medical Center on May 29.

Project SEARCH is a hands-on program that provides training, work exploration and experience in a supportive environment.

About 200 young adults participated during the 2023-24 program year at 28 sites around the state.

Project SEARCH participant Scotty Willyard, center, shares moments from the 2023-24 program, supported by Robin Keller, left, and Christopher Breene, right. Kris Leonhardt photo
Project SEARCH participant Scotty Willyard, center, shares moments from the 2023-24 program, supported by Robin Keller, left, and Christopher Breene, right. Kris Leonhardt photo

Since its institution in 2008, the program has guided 1,800 individuals into the state’s workforce.

Aurora BayCare Medical Center President Thomas Miller, who was instrumental in the formation of the program at the facility, said that the event was likely his favorite speaking event of the year.

“It’s just a really wonderful time to have a room full of folks come together [and] gather just for a few moments to celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of Project SEARCH interns… . This is a moment of immense pride not just for the interns, but really for us at Aurora Bay Care Medical Center as well,” Miller said.

Miller said that the group was the third cohort, which now consisted of 17 individuals, to graduate from the program at Aurora Bay Care.

“Graduates you have shown an incredible dedication, resilience and growth over the past several months. Each of you embarked on this journey with a determination and today we’re here to honor the fruits of your hard work. You know, navigate the challenges, embrace new skills and demonstrate that with perseverance and a heck of a lot of passion, just about anything is possible,” he added.

Miller commended the six participants — Amanda Blodgett, Christopher Breene, Robert Ceasar, Robin Keller, James Tourville and Scotty Willyard — on their support for each other, as well.

“The chemistry and camaraderie between these six individuals is probably about as strong as I’ve ever seen. They just get along really well. You can tell when they’re in a room, they push on each other, they joke with each other. They empower each other and they just work really well together and that’s a good reminder for all of us here at this hospital,” he added.

“But most importantly, they remind us to create an inclusive work environment. And that in turn helps the well-being of our community and frankly, it simply makes us a better hospital.”

For more information, visit https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/dvr/programs/project-search.

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