WAUSAU – Eight students from local high schools will begin a new one-year program at Aspirus Wausau Hospital that will give people with developmental disabilities the skills to be competitive in the workforce.

“Through our partnership with Project Search, we will provide these students the opportunity to gain valuable work and social skills through department internships,” said Rhonda Kardos, the hospital’s business liaison with Project Search, in an Aspirus news release. “This is a transition-to-work program, with the goal for each student-intern to attain competitive employment within the community.”

Rhonda Kardos

Project Search started in 1996 at the Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center. The program aims to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities and advocate on behalf of their employment to other organizations. The program is now an internationally recognized employer driven model with over 500 sites in 45 states and nine countries.

Classes start Sept. 4 at Aspirus Wausau Hospital. The students will spend the first part of the day in the classroom then head out to their respective departments. They will have three 10-week rotations in different departments in the hospital ranging from data entry to food services.

Desirae Hoff

“I’m really excited,” said Desirae Hoff, one of the students in the first class, in the news release. “Once I got more information on the project, I realized this was something I really wanted to do. I really hope to stay in the Wausau area and work in the medical field.”

Hoff said being a part of the program is another step in her independence.

“I want to learn new things and meet new people,” Hoff said. “But most of all, I’m just really excited to get started.”

Photos courtesy Aspirus.