Transition high school to open this fall in Marshall

MARSHALL – Project SEARCH has come to Marshall.

For the past year and a half, a group of people from various agencies, schools and businesses have been working together on a project that is finally coming to fruition. Group members presented their project at an informational meeting Thursday at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.

They helped to develop for the Marshall area a transition high school that will help high school students with disabilities develop job skills and prepare themselves for employment in the community.

Avera Marshall will provide the classroom site and internships for the students.

Susie Rutkowski from Cincinnati, Ohio, and a co-founder of Project SEARCH, has spent the last couple of days in Marshall working with the group.

Rutkowski said Project SEARCH is a “fabulous opportunity” for all involved.

“Avera is very committed to this program,” she said. “It’s a great atmosphere and we already have great internships from managers.”

“We’re so excited to be chosen as a worksite,” said Sonya Kayser of Avera Marshall. “It’s a good fit with our mission.”

The school will be for students who live within 30-45 miles of Marshall who are at least 18 years old, have met graduation requirements, but are eligible to attend one more year of high school to meet additional transition goals. The plan is to have this program in place for the 2013-14 school year. A component of the plan is to offer internships for the student participants.

Kayser said “100 percent of Avera Marshall’s managers said ‘yes, we should do this.'”

The students, she said, will “gain experience and develop leadership skills,” and Avera Marshall will have “access to new and diverse talent streams.”

Project SEARCH started at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996 and is now a program with more than 200 host sites worldwide designed to assist youth with disabilities reach their goals of community employment.

In Marshall, the program will serve as an opportunity for students to transition from high school to community employment by working from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday during the school year. Students will participate in a variety of eight- to 10-week internship rotations at Avera that best meet their interests, experience and abilities. A job coach, program instructor and department staff work with the students (and Individualized Education Program team) to help them develop interpersonal and job skills.

“They will then go on to work independently full time or part time,” said Dawn Wambeke of Advance Opportunities, who was on the advisory committee along with entities such as SW/WC Service Cooperative and SW MN Private Industry Council. The planning process was funded by a grant from United Way of Southwest Minnesota.

For more information, visit and click on program and services and go to Project SEARCH.