News Detail

District 186 Ceremony Honors Students Completing Job-Skills Program


Eleven students enrolled in Springfield School District 186’s transition-to-work program graduated today (June 1) from the program during a ceremony at Springfield Memorial Hospital, where they have spent the past year working in various roles throughout the nonprofit hospital.

The program, Project SEARCH, embeds 18- to 21-year-old students with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities in jobs throughout the community, where they can gain job skills to help them obtain competitive employment upon completion of the program.

All 11 graduates “are now employed in our community,” said Meg Thurman, executive director of student support services for District 186. Wednesday’s ceremony was held in the hospital’s Memorial Learning Center.

Memorial Health has hired two of those graduates.

Calling the program a success, Thurman said, “Through our collaborative partnership, student interns have been provided transformational training that has prepared them to be career ready. Together, we are changing the trajectory of student lives.”

Launched in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Project SEARCH now has more than 600 sites worldwide. The District 186 program is the first in downstate Illinois, said Amelia Zibutis, student support services administrator for District 186.

”We were honored for Springfield Memorial Hospital to be chosen as a host site to offer these interns an opportunity to learn job skills,” said Tami Ireland, system administrator for human resources at Memorial Health. “Project SEARCH aligns with our mission to improve lives and build stronger communities through better health.”

Another group of student interns will start at Springfield Memorial Hospital in the fall for the 2022-23 school year. Each student will do three 10-week internships over the course of the school year.

Project SEARCH is a partnership between District 186, Memorial Health, SPARC and the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Thurman said Project SEARCH reflects the school district’s mission in which the district “in collaboration with families and community, shall develop in all students the knowledge, understanding, skills, and attitudes to empower them to be responsible lifelong learners and citizens in an ever-changing world.”