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Tony Evers, Governor
Amy Pechacek, Secretary

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

June 4, 2024
CONTACT: DWD Communications

DWD, Milwaukee County Zoo Celebrate Graduation of 10 Project SEARCH Interns

Project SEARCH Program Prepares Young Adults with Disabilities for Rewarding Careers

Anna Stewart speaking to her fellow graduates at the Project SEARCH completion ceremony.
Anna Stewart, a graduate of Mukwonago High School, spoke to her fellow graduates at the Project SEARCH completion ceremony.

MILWAUKEE – Anna Stewart spent the past nine months learning new skills and trying new work opportunities at the Milwaukee County Zoo through Project SEARCH, a collaborative program overseen by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR).

Stewart, a graduate from Mukwonago High School, gained valuable work experience during her internship rotations, including operating the carousel, preparing food for the birds in the aviary, and working in the education area. She enjoyed learning about being professional in the workplace and meeting people.

Stewart, along with nine other students and adults with disabilities, celebrated the completion of Project SEARCH on May 31, during a graduation ceremony that drew friends and families to the Zoofari Center. With help learning new work skills through Project SEARCH, Stewart was offered a job as a summer camp assistant at the zoo.

"The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development is excited to celebrate the state's nearly 200 Project SEARCH graduates, who have explored new skills, expanded their opportunities, and earned a great sense of accomplishment in the work they have done over the past nine months," said DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek. "In Wisconsin, successful programs like Project SEARCH reaffirm the tremendous skills and talents individuals with disabilities bring to the workforce, and that success would not be possible without the dedicated employers and statewide partners who deliver the program, day in and day out."

The graduation ceremony at the Zoofari Center on May 31 in Milwaukee, 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, the local internship experience was made possible by partners including the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), Milwaukee County Zoo, Zoological Society of Milwaukee, SSA Group, CESA #1, Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, TMG Wisconsin, IRIS and My Choice. Statewide, 28 premier employers are participating in Project SEARCH this year.

“At Goodwill, we provide access to programs and services that open the door to opportunities and help ensure that all who want to work can,” says Laura Romens, senior director of workforce development with Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin and Metropolitan Chicago. “We are proud to support three Project SEARCH sites in southeastern Wisconsin to help young adults build confidence, feel welcome, develop job and social skills as well as guide them in finding employment where they can continue to grow.”

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 both employability skills in a classroom and hands-on job skills in the business environment.

Started at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in 1996, Project SEARCH has provided workforce training to over 1,800 Wisconsin residents since its statewide launch in 2008. For more information, visit Project SEARCH Wisconsin.


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 Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.