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New partnership helps people with disabilities prepare for workforce

Posted at 5:40 PM, Feb 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-26 18:40:25-05

OLATHE, Kan. Johnson County Developmental Supports' Project Search, an internship program that helps people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, has a new partnership with Olathe Health.

Shelly Forshay is an intern, working in food services.

When asked about her favorite part of the internship, she didn’t hesitate.

“I love washing dishes,” Forshay said with a smile.

Currently, Olathe Health has five Project Search interns.

“A lot of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities don’t have opportunities or resources to effectively get community employment,” Project Search skills trainer Forrest Austin said. “Oftentimes, they don’t have as many opportunities to starting jobs.”

And they want to change that through this new partnership.

“Many people have loved ones, friends, neighbors, that may need the additional assistance with the workforce partnership or Project Search-type program,” Employment and Employee relations manager Amy Wichmann said. “Once people become more aware of it, their businesses will participate in it. I only see this program expanding.”

Through this internship, interns learn all about marketable and transferable work skills.

“It's really important for people with disabilities to have the resources to help them approach these opportunities,” Austin said. “I think the more we can do to connect people with these opportunities, the better off we're going to be.”

Desirae Long, who’s an intern in the medical center’s Human Resources Department, said she’s thankful for this new partnership.

“It gives our program more opportunities to go places than just the administration building,” Long said. “Then it gives people the opportunity to see what people with special needs can do.” 

The Project Search program has served 49 people, ranging from 18 to 37.

“I think this is really good for me,” Forshay said. “Project Search has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

Forshay, who was first shy about starting the internship, is now taking it by storm.

“Just a fun environment, where I can just come to work and be happy and do my job and talk to people and it's given me an opportunity to do so,” Forshay said.

For more information about the program, click here.