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Members of the Project SEARCH students listen to a speaker during their graduation ceremony at Consumers Energy Wednesday. 

By Jeff Steers
JTV News

(May 22, 2024 3:56 PM ET) Seven students graduated from Project SEARCH Wednesday after a nine month internship through Consumers Energy.

The program is a collaboration between Consumers Energy and the Jackson County Intermediate School District.

Project SEARCH is an international internship program for students with Individualized Education Plans who have met graduation requirements but have not met their IEP transition goals. This unpaid internship program follows the countywide school calendar. Interns are expected to attend Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will participate in up to three internships – in 10 week rotations – with about one hour of classroom time.

Classroom curriculum consists of soft skills, team building, resume building, interview skills, career exploration, job searching, filling out applications, budgeting, and other daily living skills – public transportation, navigating downtown Jackson, hygiene, and others.

Jackson Mayor Daniel Mahoney was the guest speaker for the seven graduates. He outlines four questions to ask when considering career choices.

“Just don’t let them tell you what you cannot do,” Mahoney told the graduates. “You are young adults who have graduated into the workforce.”

Graduates are Kriztopher Bilby, Logan Burton, Noah Cantrell, Hanna Chambers, Trinity Gutzler, Xander Heskett, and Ashton Shaffer.

Five of the seven graduates – who spent the last nine months working at Consumers Energy – have found work, another is planning to attend Michigan Career & Technical Institute, and the seventh is actively seeking employment.

JCISD Instructor Megan Hall said on average 70 percent of graduates find work after graduation. That is above the national average for students in this educational category.

Project SEARCH is in its sixth year.

Hall said the students come in as shy and not knowing what employment issues they may face.

“The transition is huge for these students,” Hall said. “They are kind, hard-working students who care about one another.”

A reception was held for the students following the graduation ceremony.

Ashton Shaffer shares a laugh as one of his instructors talks about the Project SEARCH student and his adventures in the 2023-2024 internship. Photos by Jeff Steers, JTV News.

HEAT ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 PM EDT FRIDAY.  Heat index values up to around 100 expected.  Hot temperatures and high humidity may cause heat illnesses.  The prolonged impacts of hot temperatures and high humidity this week will increase potential for heat related illnesses.  Drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors.

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