Project SEARCH graduates are ready and eager to join the workforce

Congratulations Graduates 585RAPID CITY, S.D. – Project SEARCH a unexampled program that helps those with developmental disabilities develop job skills and find meaningful employment graduated 11 participants Thursday at the Monument Health West Auditorium. Monument Health is one of the program’s host business partners and hired nine of the graduates.

“Project SEARCH is a really unique program in that we really do work hard to invest our time in these young professionals to create wonderful employees as they go out into their communities that are well rounded. They have volunteer experience, they have knowledge of how to take care of themselves, how to pay their bills and how to be the best employees they can be,” said Heather Hoeye, Project SEARCH Coordinator.

Hoeye said the graduates have worked really hard this year despite the many challenges they faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and have shown that they are capable, compassionate, phenomenal employees and good people that are ready to move forward with their lives and step out into their communities.

“It just felt like a year to take our time and really rejoice that we are here. That we are back in the hospital because we started, we stopped, we had kids sick, we shut down, we opened back up, and it was something. There were times we weren’t sure what was going to happen next,” said Hoeye. “What these participants had to go through to make today happen is huge. Nobody just showed up and made it happen, every single person worked to make it happen.”

Participants get the opportunity to explore a wide variety of careers through targeted internships to find out where their skills and desires fit in the job market. Participants can choose any career field they desire. Previous placements have been made in human resources, the automotive industry, the medical field and hotels. They also learn employability skills such as communication and consistency in the classroom and receive support with housing, transportation, adaptations, adult services, financial payees, and on-the-job coaching even after graduation. This was the program’s largest graduating class since its inception in 2015.

“These young people are never left on their own there’s always someone to assist in finding that career,” said Hoeye.

The 2022 Project Search graduates include:

  • Isa Gomez is employed by the Monument Health Cancer Care Institute.
  • Deric Wright, a Vending Technician for Compass One.
  • Kaylin Olson, a Laundry Technician at Holiday Inn Express in Deadwood.
  • Marke Jacobs, a Dietary Waiter for Compass One.
  • Lori Marruffo, a Laundry Technician for Monument Health.
  • Rachil Olstad, a Food Service Aide for Compass One.
  • Bergen Marietta who will be taking a bit of time off to heal an injury, before resuming his job search this summer.
  • Matthew Martian, a Rehabilitation Aide at Monument Health.
  • Jeremiah Riter, a Patient Transporter for Compass One.
  • Julianna Cano who is employed by Monument Health in the Childcare Center.
  • Haley Schroeder, a Prep Cook at Compass One.

“At Monument Health this gives us joy. Joy that we can partner with Project SEARCH, joy that we can partner with the very best, that we can partner with people who smile and make a positive difference within our healing environment every day,”  said Sandra Ogunremi, Monument Health Director Diversity, Inclusion and Spiritual Care Services. “It brings us joy to know that we are making a difference in the communities that we serve in and that we are providing employment opportunities, training opportunities, development opportunities, educational opportunities within our healing environment.”

Project SEARCH serves West River South Dakota. There is an application and interview process to participate.  For more information go to or visit their Facebook page.

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