Keesler’s second year of success with Project SEARCH

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Devyn Waits
  • 81st Training Wing

Keesler’s second class of Project SEARCH, six interns, graduated from the program here, May 21.

Project SEARCH connects local school districts with governmental & non-governmental organizations that allow high school students with disabilities to do internships and learn critical job skills.

Keesler hosted their first class of interns last year. Since then, the number of available jobs has expanded from four to 12 locations throughout the installation, with units opening their doors to include interns into their daily operations.

The program’s expansion to more units has helped interns discover interests in different career fields, as one found a passion for the medical field by working at the 81st Medical Group.

“Once the day ends, everybody comes back for a debrief to talk about their experience during a shift,” said Rhonda Cochran, Biloxi School District instructor. “Our intern, Jackson Holmes, told me that he got to observe a shoulder surgery. He was able to describe for me the details of the medical procedures. I loved seeing his passion come alive.”

Working on base allows the interns to gain essential employment skills, as the program allows them to showcase their talents to potential employers throughout the installation.

“Inside and outside base, we’re already seeing success stories with the interns,” said Cochran. “We have one that's already working at the commissary while another intern just got a job today with a company that does stocking for the shelves,” said Cochran. “This is exactly what we’re trying to achieve with Project SEARCH, and they’re already developing those key professional relationships with organizations around them before they’ve even finished the program.”

By graduating Project SEARCH, the interns, now graduates, have a set of competitive job skills, professional ties with organizations, and training that can take them far in the local community.

“I get emotional just thinking about it. It’s like they were kids yesterday, taking their first steps and figuring out where they want to go in life,” said Nakel Stribling, Project SEARCH job skills planner. “Like most high schoolers, they didn’t have a solidified idea of what they wanted in terms of a career, but coming to Keesler allowed them to get a glimpse of all the amazing things they can do. I’m absolutely excited to see the graduates grow in their adult lives and look forward to what the future brings for Project SEARCH.”