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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Interns gain confidence, job skills

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  • Project Search Intern Jared Ratzlaff has quite an eye for detail. Ratzlaff is working in the materials management department at Newton Medical Center as part of his internship, and it’s his job to check expiration dates on products to make sure the products still are safe to use. Jeremy Gooch, who is a teacher with the Project Search program, recalls seeing Ratzlaff sorting through a particular box of products and examining every single item. At first he was going to tell Ratzlaff he was being too meticulous, that surely all the products in the box would be the same, but then Ratzlaff discovered two expired items. “That’s how thorough he is,” Gooch said. “It’s a great placement for (him).” Ratzlaff is part of the second group of Project Search interns at Newton Medical Center, a program that seeks to provide job skills training for students with disabilities. This year, NMC’s Project Search has six participants. The program includes on-the-job training and class time. Interns work in a variety of departments at the hospital, including dish washing; linens; housekeeping; maintaining the gardens; and scanning lab documents. Gooch also tries to integrate technology into class time as much as he can, so students will be more equipped to eventually use that technology on the job and to further their careers. On Friday, the hospital was hosting a meeting for Project Search programs across the state. Currently there are seven Project Search programs in Kansas — in Manhattan, Salina, Wichita, Lawrence, Topeka, Butler County and Newton. Two more programs are slated to begin in fall 2013. Attendees went to training sessions; heard presentations from the students; and had the opportunity to tour the hospital and watch the students at work. The students shared how the program taught them how to interact with co-workers; to develop effective communications skills; and to positively cope with stress. Ratzlaff said the internship already has helped him to gain self-confidence and learn how to be independent. He’s also made new friends at the hospital. “When I meet nice co-workers and (hear) how much they appreciate me, that really makes my day feel good,” he said. Dylan Eagan also said the internship has improved his self image. “I thought I couldn’t do any good,” he said. “... I learned to be confident and do more of the job.” 
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