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Project SEARCH Graduation Celebrates Students with Disabilities


This weekend across the nation hundreds of thousands of students will graduate, but it was a graduation of only six that drew the attention of everyone in Marshfield Friday.

Congratulations are in order for Project SEARCH class of 2014. Project SEARCH is a training and education program for students with disabilities/ Friday six local students graduated after training with Ministry St. Joseph's Hospital for the last year.

Benjamin Oliver says he's excited and nervous to graduate, expressing the feelings of every graduate on graduation day. But unlike every graduate, Benjamin is graduating with more than a diploma. Thanks to Project SEARCH, he's ready for a career.

"What I've actually learned is more communication skills, being more independent and being known out there in the community," Benjamin told NewsChannel 7.

Benjamin's fellow graduate, Matthew Erickson, is ready too.

"I learned how to be, well basically be more independent and I learned that I really enjoy working," he said.

That's exactly what Project SEARCH is all about.

"They grow and they learn and they become open," Project SEARCH instructor and coordinator Anne Dick explained. "For some of them this is the first time they're having friendships and they're growing and they feel a part of something bigger than themselves."

The Project SEARCH program at Ministry St. Joseph's is one of seven sites in Wisconsin. It's all part of Governor Walker's administrations Year of a Better Bottom Line aimed at encouraging employers to hire people with disabilities because they add value to the workforce. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch spoke at Friday's ceremony.

"Their success means so much more than simply a certificate or taking a bow, moving a tassel across a motar board," Lt. Kleefisch said. "They're success means something for the better bottom line for all of Wisconsin."

Project SEARCH also means a better bottom line for Benjamin and Matthew who both have jobs lined up for after graduation.

Dick's final piece of advice to her graduates is simple.

"Continue to be brave and believe in yourself and have confidence and don't give up. Keep trying everyday and you can do it because if you believe in yourself you can do anything."

Three of the six students who graduated Friday already have jobs lined up for after graduation. Benjamin even told NewsChannel 7 he plans to go to college at Mid-State Technical College for computer networking.

This is the fourth class Ministry St. Joseph's and Project SEARCH have graduated.


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