“Project Search” offers Holmen student a path to independence

High school students with developmental and intellectual disabilities spend an entire year training at La Crosse’s Gundersen Health System

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)- No matter our age or ability, most of us want to be independent. “This part is my favorite part because it’s the blanket blaster,” says Anthony Xiong.

The Holmen teen is on his way to self-sufficiency thanks to “Project Search”. “We focus very heavily on teaching them all the skills they can’t necessarily learn in school,” explains instructor Laura Anderson.

High school students with developmental and intellectual disabilities spend an entire year training at La Crosse’s Gundersen Health System. They learn employment-related communication skills in a classroom and intern with several Gundersen departments. 

Antony enjoys working in laundry services. Once he graduates from “Project Search”, Anthony and his classmates can apply to Gundersen for full-time work. “We probably got 20-25% of our staff who’ve come through Project Search”, explains Gundersen Laundry Services Manager, Brian Ernst. 

For Anthony’s grandmother, Project Search is far more valuable than a paycheck. “I‘m so proud of him. I watch him grow with the program. It’s helping him, really helping him, ” says Ue Vang. 

Project Search is an opportunity for independence. “Which gives them that feeling we all want, right? We want to earn money. We want to have some say in our life. We want to develop that independence and be an adult,” says Anderson.

And it is a dream Anthony’s family believes, through this program, will come true. “He’s going to make it. He’s going to make it,” says Vang.

Anthony is for Holmen. Project Search accepts students from all area high schools. Learn more about the program HERE.