Mercyhealth joins program to help people with disabilities get jobs

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) — A program aiming to help young people with disabilities find fulfilling jobs is celebrating an expansion.

Angie King is helping keep the pharmacy at Mercyhealth Hospital in Janesville stocked.

“I put medicine on pegs in the backroom and I get to work with the robot,” King told 27 News. “I put names on bins and it goes through the robot and [it] puts medicine on it.”

This is King’s first job since graduating Beloit Memorial High School. It’s a big step for her independence. She’s working side by side with Mercyhealth employees, learning how to grow her skills and interact with co-workers.

“She’ll come and she’ll say ‘I’m done with this task, what else do you have for me to do?’ And she just doesn’t remain idle and she likes being helpful and she’s opened up, too, over the [past] month, getting along with other people and talking and so you just see her thriving,” said Sandy Sokn, the pharmacy manager who oversees King’s work.

King is a student intern through Project SEARCH. It’s a workplace immersion program for young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to help them live a fulfilling life. They go through classroom education and hands on training on the job.

“They have the same goals that all of us have: to have a good life, to have friends, to have a job, to be able to live on their own, but we all know it takes income for that to happen and Project SEARCH enables that,” said Greg Schneider, chair of the program and former employee of the School District of Beloit.

The employment rate for Project SEARCH graduates in the state averages more than 88 percent, compared to the employment rate for others with disabilities at just over 30 percent, according to Schneider.

Mercyhealth is now celebrating becoming a host site for Project SEARCH. Seven people are in the program. Mercyhealth has been working with Project SEARCH for the past year, helping students transition from high school to the workplace.

It’s allowing people like Angie King to become part of a team.

“She has been such a help to us, but it’s also neat to see the way that she opens up and is becoming just an active, vital part of our department and it’s good to see that happen,” Sokn said.

King hopes more young people like her can find their true calling in life.

“I just took another step forward and now I’m here,” she said. “A lot of disability kids can’t work, so maybe they could enter this and then they could try to find a job.”

The interns at Mercyhealth also work in other areas of the hospital, filing paperwork, helping in the cafe and cleaning.

Project SEARCH is a growing program at 600 sites around the world, including more than two dozen in Wisconsin.

For more information on the local program, call or email Tracy Elger, director of programs and services, CESA 2, at (262) 473-1443 or tracy.elger@cesa2.org.

Jennifer Kliese

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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