Six people graduated from the Tabor College Project Search program on May 10, including McPherson High School graduate Ryan Ronsse.

Project SEARCH is a school-to-work transition program led by the Marion County Special Education Cooperative. The goal of Project SEARCH is to prepare young adults with disabilities for work within an integrated setting at a competitive wage.

Ronsse, who has Down Syndrome, completed internships in three departments — working in the athletic training facility, campus recreation center and Jay Shop Bookstore at Tabor College. He was also chosen as Tabor College Project SEARCH's Intern of the Month in February.

Robert Haude, Tabor College Project SEARCH coordinator said the program is designed for individuals ages 18 to 30 years old who have finished their academic requirements and are looking to join the workforce.

"Our program provides people with employee training through internships at Tabor College," Haude explained.

The Tabor College Project SEARCH program just completed its second year of providing internships for individuals.

"We're still a fairly new program, really," Haude said. "...It's really impacted the college and the students and the atmosphere here."

Most of the Tabor College Project SEARCH program interns are residents of cities within Marion County.

"We seek people out of our county when we don't have enough from within our county," Haude said.

Applicants go through a day of skills assessment in order to be chosen for the internships. There are currently nine departments at Tabor College that offer 10-week internships.

"It gives the interns an opportunity to be on campus and they are treated like employees," Haude said.

Some of the skills the program focuses on developing are working with other people and communication. It also works with interns to aid them in writing a cover letter and resume for their professional portfolio so they can apply for jobs after they complete the program.

"It give them a variety of skills — both hard and soft," Haude said.

Ronsse said he learned many things, including how to make a portfolio, clock in and out, give presentations, follow a schedule, and have fun at work.

Haude said Ronsse's encouraging, kind and generous attitude not only served him well, but also cultivated a team camaraderie with the other Project SEARCH interns.

"(Ronsse) is a people person," Haude said. "He provided a strong work ethic and he is a strong teammate."

The internships, new friends and the food in the cafeteria were all aspects Ronsse said he liked about his experience at Tabor College.

Ronsse has gone on to secure jobs at both Dillons and the YMCA in McPherson.

Project SEARCH also offers internships in hospitals and other organizations in Salina, Wichita, El Dorado and Newton, as well as other locations in Kansas and around the United States. For more information, go to https://www.projectsearch.us.

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.