Bailee  Sandbakken has a new job  and a bright future ahead, thanks to her enthusiastic participation in Project SEARCH, an innovative program designed to help her gain financial independence.

Now an assistant baker at Caribou Coffee, Bailee spent the 2015-2016 school year immersed in the world of work at as a Project SEARCH intern at Fairview Lakes Medical Center. Through the program, Bailee and her five fellow interns from several north metro school districts participated in a combination of classroom instruction, career exploration and hands-on training.

Together, these students with disabilities gained the skills needed to land jobs suited to their skills and interests—and to successfully navigate the world of work. That, says Lesa Genovese, Project Search instructor, is the point of the program. “The ultimate goal of Project SEARCH is to help interns become independent adults working in a competitive environment,” says Lesa, who is employed by the Forest Lake Area Schools.

“By boosting their self-confidence and increasing their skills, these interns are more likely to become happy, healthy contributing members in their communities.”

Interns’ experience includes three, 10-week rotations at Fairview Lakes—ranging from Nutrition Services and Environmental Services to Facilities and Materials Management to Inpatient Pharmacy and Human Resources.

After a four-hour shift, the interns break for lunch and then meet with Lesa in the classroom to learn about health and safety, communication, problem-solving, finances and how to be successful getting and keeping a job.

This year’s Project SEARCH graduates now are moving toward financial independence as they apply, interview and are selected for their first paid positions. At the time of graduation, four of the six interns had accepted jobs in the community.

“As the interns are growing, we are also growing ourselves, especially in the Fairview values of dignity and compassion,” says Wendy Braski, nutrition services supervisor. “Our staff has really embraced the program. We work one-on-one with students to help them achieve their goals. We see so much growth during the 10-week rotations—more smiles, questions and having fun,” says Wendy.

Project SEARCH graduate with staff 2016_Lakes edit

Fairview Lakes Maintenance Engineers Josh Knight (left) and Bruce Gockowski (right), thank Project SEARCH Intern Devian Thompson for his great work as a member of their team.

Every spring Project SEARCH interns are chosen from a pool of applicants prior to the beginning of the school year. To find out more about opportunities at Fairview visit our career page.