Interns Search for Employment After Graduating the First Project SEARCH Program at Stemilt

WENATCHEE, Wash. – The first 7 interns to participate in the Project SEARCH program at Stemilt are searching for new employment opportunities after graduating June 6. Eastmont Transition Coordinator, Michelle Sadewasser, and Stemilt Director of Human Resources, Zach Williams, discuss how Project SEARCH, a transition to work program that helps secure competitive employment for people with disabilities, has prepared the interns to find employment at Stemilt, in the community, and in continuing education.  

“Each intern entered the program with various work, school and life experiences” says Sadewasser. “Throughout the past year, they have gained not only the hands-on experience of working in a business setting but increased their confidence of their own personal abilities. They gained new perspectives about certain jobs and careers and built much more independence than when they first walked into the Project SEARCH program.” 

Project SEARCH strives to maintain an active, ongoing program of technical assistance, program evaluation, program development, and continuous improvement. The program was developed to help young people with disabilities gain real-life work experiences combined with training employability and independent living to help them successfully transition to productive adult life.  

“I am extremely proud of our interns,” says Williams. “I was fortunate enough to be a part of this awesome program at Stemilt. Each intern has grown so much in their confidence and abilities. The program was extremely successful, especially for the first year! I must admit, I am sad that I won’t get to see them around the workplace anymore. Although, two interns have found jobs at Stemilt!” 

After graduation, three Project SEARCH interns were hired for employment within the community and at Stemilt. Emily Hensley has been hired as a Professional Assistant in the finance department at Stemilt and Cole Hale will also join the team as a Shipping Clerk in the shipping department. Olivia Leonhardt has been hired at ABC Learning Center in Wenatchee, WA, Karen Cervantes will continue her education at barber school, and Josh Hernke, Kennon Watson, and Luis Perez are open to new opportunities.  

“These interns have demonstrated to our staff, the Stemilt team, their families and our community as a whole that they are capable of many things if given the opportunity, time and support,” says Sadewasser. “As they graduate and move on to their next endeavors, we know that Project SEARCH Stemilt has helped equip them with the knowledge, skills and experiences needed to be successful in life.” 

The interns joined the Project SEARCH Stemilt program in September 2022 and graduated June 6 at Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee, Washington. A combination of Eastmont and Stemilt staff, family and friends joined to celebrate the accomplishments of the interns with live music, a taco truck, speeches, and a Project SEARCH Stemilt themed cake custom made by a Project SEARCH skills trainer. After receiving their graduation certificate from Eastmont High School, one intern in particular, Emily Hensley, received a surprise Intern of the Year Award.  

“Stemilt really benefited from the addition of the Project SEARCH program and the interns who participated,” says Williams. “They enhanced our culture and work environment with their enthusiasm, great personalities, and the bonds they made with our Stemilters.” 

Thanks to the support from the Chelan-Douglas Development Disabilities Program (CDDD,) the Development Disabilities Administration (DDA,) the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR,) Link Transit, Stemilt and the Eastmont School District, this group of interns were able to set the bar high for the next to come to Project SEARCH at Stemilt, according to Sadewasser. From office decoration events to celebrating birthdays, Stemilt and Project SEARCH interns built a culture of engagement in Stemilt’s HR, retail, human capital, finance, shipping, procurement, and production departments throughout three internship periods.  

“It’s been a learning experience for all of us,” says Williams. “The Stemilt team and the Eastmont staff really put their hearts into helping these interns learn the tools they need to be successful. This wouldn’t have been possible without their leadership and hard work, and we can’t wait to welcome the next interns to the Project SEARCH Stemilt program in the fall.” 

About Stemilt  

Stemilt is a family-owned grower, packer, and shipper of tree fruit. Owned and operated by the Mathison family, Stemilt’s mission is to cultivate people and delight consumers with its World Famous Fruits. Stemilt is a leader in sweet cherries and organic tree fruits, and a key supplier of apples and pears. The company stewards an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible business through its Responsible Choice® program, which has been in place since 1989. For more information about Stemilt, visit