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DWD logo

Tony Evers, Governor
Amy Pechacek, Secretary-designee

Department of Workforce Development
Secretary's Office

201 E. Washington Avenue
P.O. Box 7946
Madison, WI 53707-7946
Telephone: (608) 266-3131
Fax: (608) 266-1784

May 23, 2023
CONTACT: DWD Communications

DWD, Aspirus Wausau Celebrate Graduation of Seven Local Project SEARCH Interns

Collaborative Program Prepares Young Adults with Disabilities for Rewarding Careers

Jaxon Graveen
Jaxon Graveen was one of seven Project SEARCH graduates who was employed at Aspirus in Wausau. One of his tasks was to work in the Security Department. In his free time, he likes to watch sports and play video games.

ROTHSCHILD – When you ask Jaxon Graveen what he enjoyed over the last nine months during the Project SEARCH program at Aspirus Wausau, he would simply say, "everything."

"I liked learning new job skills, having fun days, and going on field trips," he said. "I learned new life skills like how to meet new people and my employment planning meetings made me learn how to take compliments and feedback about how I am doing at my job and also helped me learn that I am growing a lot."

Graveen, along with six other individuals with disabilities, celebrated the completion of Project SEARCH on Thursday, May 18, during a graduation ceremony that drew friends and families to the Central Wisconsin Convention & Expo Center. Aspirus Wausau Hospital was the local Project SEARCH site.

Now that he has graduated, Graveen will continue his Saturday shifts at Taco John's. He also hopes to use his new skills to potentially work at a grocery store deli or do maintenance work.

"The Department of Workforce Development this year is excited to celebrate Wisconsin's nearly 200 Project SEARCH graduates, who pushed themselves to explore new opportunities, develop additional life skills, and take pride in the work they have done over the past nine months," said DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. "In Wisconsin, more employers are tapping the state's diverse talent pool. Successful programs like Project SEARCH reaffirm that workers with disabilities can bring tremendous skills and talents to any employer's workforce."

The graduation ceremony marked the completion of a nine- to 12-month immersive work experience. The interns recounted their hands-on experiences and talked about their future career opportunities.

In addition to the host site and DWD's vocational rehabilitation division, the local internship experience was made possible by partners including Cooperative Educational Service Agency 9, the school districts of DC Everest, Merrill, and Mosinee, Marathon County Special Education, Opportunity Development Center, Inclusa, Inc., Lakeland Care, and TMG Wisconsin. Statewide, 28 premier employers are participating in Project SEARCH this year.

DWD's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation oversees Project SEARCH statewide and has supported the program with funding, coordination, and technical assistance. The state division also provides vocational counseling and support to program participants.

Project SEARCH is a collaborative effort among state vocational rehabilitation agencies, area schools, local employers, and long-term care organizations to help interns acquire marketable, competitive, and transferable skills that lead to employment. The interns complete multiple 10-week rotations to maximize exposure to different career paths and learn employability skills in a classroom and hands-on job skills within the business environment.

Started at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in 1996, Project Search has provided workforce training to approximately 1,500 Wisconsin residents since its statewide launch in 2008. For more, visit Project SEARCH Wisconsin.

DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek, center, speaks at a Project SEARCH graduation on May 18 at the Central Wisconsin Convention & Expo Center in Rothschild.
DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek, center, speaks at a Project SEARCH graduation on May 18 at the Central Wisconsin Convention & Expo Center in Rothschild.


Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development efficiently delivers effective and inclusive services to meet Wisconsin's diverse workforce needs now and for the future. The department advocates for and invests in the protection and economic advancement of all Wisconsin workers, employers and job seekers through six divisions – Employment and Training, Vocational Rehabilitation, Unemployment Insurance, Equal Rights, Worker's Compensation and Administrative Services. To keep up with DWD announcements and information, sign up for news releases and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.