Project SEARCH: Preparing young adults for employment

KSN Digital Extra

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – For the last six years, McConnell Air Force Base, Derby Public Schools, and Project SEARCH have been joining forces to help students with intellectual disabilities gain marketable job skills.

All students participating in the program graduated from high school.

In 2014, McConnell Air Force Base became the first military installation to partner with Project SEARCH and has become a model for other military installations throughout the country.

“Project SEARCH is a school-to-work transition program through Derby Public Schools, and McConnell is our host business — and so they provide different areas for our interns to learn job skills and employment skills,” said Vicki Rierson, Project Search Instructor for Derby Public Schools.

For 21-year-old Jerry Harrison being a part of this program has allowed him to express his artistic style as well as expand his knowledge in different job fields.

“The best part here is painting and drawing and helping out – engraving – those are the best things I love,” said Jerry Harrison, Project SEARCH intern.

Rierson says the program focuses on providing participants with suitable job skills to help them become employable.

“There’s a safe learning environment where you can learn these employability skills and feel comfortable. If you happen to make a mistake and you have people that support you it’s a win-win situation,” Rierson added.

Harrison works at the Arts and Crafts center at McConnell. He is able to help his supervisors with customer service, plaques, painting, and much more.

“I say this is the best experience that I got on this job site so far. I would like to call this my glorious heaven. Arts and Craft Center is the best place in the world and I advise everyone who hasn’t been there or hasn’t worked there, you should go try it out.,” said Harrison.

Harrison says knowing that he works at a military base makes him feel safe every time he goes to work.

“Well, my parents are proud of themselves, that their little boy is becoming a man by working every day at the McConnell Air Force Base. And I just accepted it and I want to keep on doing it to make them happy,” Harrison said.

Harrison, along with seven other interns, will graduate from the program in May.

To learn more about the program you can go to Derby Public Schools.com or Project SEARCH.com

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