Community Connections: Project Search

Community Connections: Project Search
Posted on 07/11/2017
The Appleton Area School District partners with community organizations and businesses you’d never expect! We're highlighting some of these partnerships that are essential in fulfilling our educational vision and mission.

You won’t find a more industrious worker at St. Elizabeth Hospital’s Marketplace than Bob Brennan.

This school year Bob and six other AASD special needs students participated in Project SEARCH, preparing for real-world jobs in everything from healthcare to food service.

AASD’s four-year-old partnership with St. Elizabeth, Valley Packaging Industries, Community Care, and Division of Vocational Rehabilitation selects applicants willing to devote another year to job training after completing high school credits.

AASD special education teacher Jean Haznar, who oversees participants, said PS’s real-life job exposure builds confidence, problem-solving and social skills, “Giving them a stepping stone to going out on their own.”

Once matched with job coaches, students do three 10-week internships at hospital sites including patient access, surgical prep and food service.

The goal is 100% job placement, said Heidi Schmidt, AASD associate director of special education. “This is a very adult focus on getting ready for work in the community.”

By May, interns have set long-term goals with community partners and parents, honed interview and job search skills, and learned from mentors.

Bob recycled hospital trash, used his organizational flair to assemble and stock shelves with patient amenity bags, and washed Marketplace tables, stocked silverware and emptied wastebaskets.
Once withdrawn, Bob is more independent and outgoing. His grin speaks volumes, said Haznar. “He’s still quiet, but coming out of his shell.”

PS is a win for interns eager to contribute to society, and for employers, still learning how capable people with disabilities are. “They are excellent workers,” she said.

Over 15 local employers hired PS alums, largely “because we put such emphasis on employability skills,” Haznar said.

Jennifer Westenberger, Marketplace retail manager and Bob’s mentor, watched Bob blossom. “He’s opened up more and does a good job. Our tables have never been so clean!”