Avera Medical Minute AMcK: Getting job experience through Projec - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Avera Medical Minute AMcK: Getting job experience through Project SEARCH

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If you don't have previous experience it can be very hard to get a good job, it's an even bigger challenge if you have a disability. That's where Avera McKennan and Project SEARCH comes in, a unique program that is giving students invaluable job training.

The floors of the Avera Heart Hospital have probably never been cleaner, that's because Lucas Larson is on the job.  

"It's a fun job and everything and the people are nice here and especially people who treat you like the way you've been treated this whole year!" Said Larson.

Lucas is a recent graduate of Project SEARCH, a unique business led program for students with disabilities.

"This program is for transitioning. It's transitioning from high school to the adult world and Project SEARCH can help them get there." Said Angie Wilken, the program coordinator for Project SEARCH.

Hospitals require a wide variety of jobs to function and makes them the perfect partner for Project SEARCH. The program rotates students through several departments granting them invaluable work experience. But the goal is much more than getting and keeping a job.

"What I really like the students to leave with is more ability to problem solve and also to get some internal motivation, you know what motivates us? Rather than just a paycheck or something external but when they're working with people they feel good about themselves and I like to capitalize on that." Said Wilken. 

For many students with disabilities, social skills don't always come naturally. For Lucas this program was just the push he needed to step out of his comfort zone  

"I mean the first time when I did Project SEARCH, I was a little nervous at first and I thought I didn't know what I was going to do in life until I found Project SEARCH and that's what's really changed me." Said Larson.

Under the program's direction, Lucas quickly made a name for himself. Lucas' dad Rick knew from the get-go this was the perfect fit for his son.

"It's on-the-job training and the goal is to actually hire the individual after the years time but Lucas' case he was in the program a little over a month and he did so well and was so well-liked that they hired him!" Said Rick Larson.

"I did a little janitor work over there at Avera McKennan and once they told me I did a very good job over there that's when my Project SEARCH teacher Angie told me there's a job opening at the Avera Heart Hospital you should see if you could apply over there so I did." Said Lucas Larson.

Whether it's through custodial care or customer service, Project SEARCH is a rare chance for these students to develop careers and transferable job skills. but most importantly take those first steps toward independence.  

"I don't think he would have had those opportunities anywhere else when he was very young and was diagnosed with autism things looked grim back then as far as opportunities for him succeed in life and this did it." Said Rick Larson.

Avera McKennan serves as the Project SEARCH host site in Sioux Falls. The program is open to young men and women ages 18 to 21 and there is still plenty of room for the next rotation. The deadline for registration is January 17, 2014. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.


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