Today we celebrated the accomplishments of seven Jackson County Intermediate School District students with developmental disabilities who completed a unique experience that moves them from the classroom to the workplace.

The students graduated from Project SEARCH, a model program that provides students with firsthand training and knowledge. The students, all in their late teens, rotated through different jobs with the company and came away with experience that better prepares them for the workplace.

“Before I came into Project SEARCH, I had severe anxiety and some mood disability and lacked work environment experience. Once I entered Project SEARCH, a whole new world opened. I have learned not to carry my load of anxiety wherever I go,” said Noah Cantrell, one of the Project SEARCH interns. “All the teams I have worked with this year have given me new skills that I can use in the future. Project SEARCH helped me overcome so many fears and problems. I am stronger and more capable than day one here.”

“We are so proud of these students and are confident their experience at Consumers Energy can help open doors for their bright futures,” said Angela Thompkins, vice president of community affairs and chief diversity officer. “We hope our partnership with the Jackson County ISD can inspire other employers to provide similar opportunities to others who, like these students, only need a chance.”

This is the sixth year we have partnered with ISD for Project SEARCH, a national program that aims to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities. Students worked in our headquarters and Parnall facility – both located in Jackson – where they learned and performed entry-level work across departments.

“Project SEARCH teaches much more than the critical skills needed in the workplace, it’s a valuable program aimed at creating confidence, instilling pride and making connections with others,” said Megan Hall, a Project SEARCH Instructor with Jackson County ISD. “The students who participate in this program always amaze me with the amount of growth they gain from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Their smiles and positive attitudes are contagious, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of such a wonderful program.”

We plan to continue Project SEARCH next year and beyond, with a goal of providing full-time jobs for some participants.

“We are blessed with so many talented people in the communities we serve, and are proud we can take part in Project SEARCH to create pathways that don’t always exist,” Thompkins said.

Related blog:

Shining A Light on Project SEARCH Student Noah Cantrell