Project SEARCH interns honored at graduation ceremony
Jackson, Mich. – It’s Graduation Day for several Jackson County students who took part in a school-to-work internship program with Consumers Energy.
Eight students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) were recognized for the hard work they put in during their Project SEARCH internship during the 2022-23 school year. The program, now wrapping up its fifth year, is a partnership between Consumers Energy and Jackson County Intermediate School District.
“Each year I’m amazed at how different the students are and this year is no exception; they have kept me on my toes with their strong opinions, their hard-working attitudes, their kindness toward others, and their ability to always ensure that everybody is included. It has been a pleasure working and teaching with all of you this year”, said Megan Hall, JCISD Teacher Consultant and Project SEARCH instructor.
The 30-week program includes classroom instruction, career exploration and hands-on training through worksite rotations at Consumers Energy. Students work toward finding employment, with many getting job offers before the internship is over. The program has consistently held a 70%-or-higher job placement rate, which is higher than the national average for other Project SEARCH programs.
Intern Ava Smilowski said she really enjoyed the experience, especially working as a team with her fellow interns and the Consumers Energy and Project SEARCH staff. “Everyone was so supportive and encouraging. I have gained a lot of self-confidence and have become more independent,” said Smilowski. During her job rotations, she worked in the mail room, the cafeteria, and a local daycare center. Thanks to this program, Ava has been offered a job as a childcare assistant at Felician Children’s Center and plans to continue working with kids in an educational setting. “I would recommend this program to other students who need more opportunities to develop job skills and confidence.”
Curtis Belen, Manager Talent Pipeline for Consumers Energy, says this program has flourished year after year and he continues to be impressed with the students who come through. “These individuals have touched so many people at the company that they don’t even realize,” said Belen. “As a business liaison, I've had this opportunity to see these classes come and go for the past five years and I have to say, this class is probably the brightest and most outgoing class we’ve ever had. Nothing but glowing remarks from our business partners that have taken on interns.”
Project SEARCH 2023 Graduates:
Dawson Bender - Jackson High
Selena Burgan - Jackson High
Logan Calkins - Michigan Center
Daisy McCully - Jackson High
Sharan Singh - Northwest
Ava Smilowski - Napoleon
Logan Stebing - Hanover-Horton
Rosie Tucker - Western
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