A Promising Future For Youth With DisabilitiesFriday, July 18, 2014 - Press Release
Nothing signals summer like graduation season. We get about a half dozen graduation announcements and I send cards because we can almost never go to the ceremonies. This year was different. Not only did I get to go to graduation ceremonies, but they were some of the neatest events I've ever attended.
They were for Project SEARCH, a program that connects young people with disabilities to a series of internships. The internships give them the job skills they need to get real and rewarding employment.
At one graduation, a young woman named Olivia spoke. Olivia was already a graduate and had a good job at a hospital. She cracked up the room when she admitted to using four alarm clocks to make sure she was never late.
I was so charmed that I waited to talk to Olivia afterward to congratulate her. She told me her biggest goal was to fully support herself. Her mother nodded approvingly as Olivia explained that she wanted to work enough hours at a high enough wage to get off Supplemental Security Income. I told her I knew she could do it, and I shared the story of a man I had met in Sheboygan last year who rolled up to me in his chair and told me he was off SSI completely. He was a successful engineer. Olivia was so personable, I could imagine her succeeding in any number of jobs.
Olivia had the ambition, but today young people like Olivia will enjoy even brighter opportunities with a new demonstration project called Wisconsin PROMISE.
While Project SEARCH is geared toward older youth with disabilities — those in their last year of high school — Wisconsin PROMISE provides services to younger students with disabilities, allowing them to begin their career exploration as young as 14.
Each young person dreams about his future or what she wants to be when she grows up. For all our children, we want to see them make their dreams come true. Wisconsin PROMISE gives youth with disabilities the support and services they need to assist them on the journey to successful employment.
The project is also in line with Gov. Scott Walker's "Year of a Better Bottom Line" initiative to raise employer and public awareness about the opportunity in hiring people with disabilities. The employees choose how to infuse the economy with their paychecks while enjoying the dignity that comes with a job. At the same time, employers find the skilled and capable workers they need with an above-average retention rate.
Gov. Walker and I are committed to building a Wisconsin where every citizen can dream big and achieve an active life, full of opportunities. That is why we support Wisconsin PROMISE.