Project SEARCH Celebrates First Internship Completion and Prepares Students for Independent Living with Link Transit

WENATCHEE, Wash. – The first 7 interns to participate in the Project SEARCH program at Stemilt completed one of 3, 3-month-long internships and shared their learnings at a Project SEARCH Open House Jan 19. Eastmont Transition Coordinator, Michelle Sadewasser and Transition Specialist, Tina Gorman, share how the interns have progressed and how a Community Based Instruction partnership with Link Transit is teaching independent living skills.

“It has been extremely rewarding to have the Project Search interns as a part of our Stemilt Team,” says Zach Williams, Stemilt Director of People Experience. “Not only do the interns get to learn the needed transferable skills to join the workforce after high school, but the Stemilt team members that are mentoring these interns are also benefiting from the great attitude and personalities they bring to the job. It really enhances the environment they are in and adds to our culture.”  

Project SEARCH’s goal is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities and strives to maintain an active, ongoing program of technical assistance, program evaluation and development, and continuous improvement. The program helps young people with disabilities gain real-life work experiences combined with training employability and independent living to help them transition to productive adult life successfully.

“Since the interns completed their first internship at Stemilt, their confidence has grown incredibly, and you can tell just by listening to them speak about themselves and their work processes,” says Sadewasser. “They’re having lunch with fellow Stemilters and their supervisors, participating in desk decorating competitions, and celebrating holidays together in Stemilt offices and facilities.”

Project SEARCH doesn’t just stop at the workplace, the program also provides training for independent living skills. Wenatchee’s Link Transit has partnered with Stemilt to help interns navigate bus routes taking them on scavenger hunt-like field trips to grocery stores, restaurants, and apartments in the community. Travel Trainor at Link Transit, Pete Kappler, says Community Based Instruction helps Project SEARCH interns learn more about the area they live in.

“Project SEARCH isn’t just about work, it’s about life outside of work too,” says Kappler. “Link Transit is a big partner in helping people with disabilities navigate the bus system as it can be intimidating and confusing. We go on these scavenger hunts in the community to help people be independent going to and from work. I think I have the best job, and it’s amazing to see someone I’ve trained use the bus system on their own.”

During the interns’ first Stemilt internship, they practiced skills in communication, time management, following instruction, self-advocating, and conducting themselves in a professional manner. The interns began their second internships in December and will continue through early spring in Stemilt’s retail, production, finance, reception/HR, and battery departments.

“This is the first time Project SEARCH has been at Stemilt and we’re learning the process and figuring out what works,” explains Sadewasser. “We got our feet wet during their first internship and we’re game planning for the second. With each year, we’ll continue adding more to the program as we go and continue giving our interns more responsibility. We’re very excited to see how the interns will grow in new department areas and continue building new skills and relationships amongst fellow Stemilters,”

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 through excellence 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