SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A unique program in KELOLAND is helping students with disabilities join the workforce.
Through Project Search, students are able to explore careers and develop skills to use in a job setting.
A little more than a month ago 21-year-old Morgan Rolfson graduated from the Project SEARCH program and landed a job at the Ronald McDonald House.
“Meeting people. There’s a lot of beautiful families out there and when they leave I just… I don’t want you to leave, you’re so nice,” Rolfson said.
Rolfson has various duties such as housekeeping and customer service.
She isn’t sure where she’d be without support from both students and teachers in the Project SEARCH program.
“I met a lot of people and they just helped me through it. Some days where I did not know what to do and I was feeling overwhelmed, and I didn’t know if I was a good job, or I didn’t know where I was going to be,” Morgan Rolfson said.
One of those teachers is Angie Mulder, who has been with the program for nine years.
“Project search was designed for students with intellectual cognitive disabilities,” Angie Mulder said.
However she says the program works with people with many different disabilities, adding that she’s worked with autism and OCD as well.
“I work with the student. We don’t work with the disabilities we work with the student,” Mulder said.
Reliability, budgeting and learning how to live independently are some of the skills students learn that help them get their future job.
The program partners with Avera Hospital, and gives students an internship like experience to learn on-the-job skills. While many are Avera based, Mulder says their opportunities after graduation aren’t just limited to the hospital.
“Sometimes the hospital just isn’t a good fit for them, but they learn that in the Project SEARCH program and that’s what I like,” Mulder said.
She says when students feel needed in their specific role their talents and abilities develop, helping them become good workers.
“I felt like I was actually a nurse or an aid because they didn’t treat me like anybody else they treated me like one of them and they actually let me do stuff that they were doing too,” Rolfson said.
For more information about Project SEARCH, click here.