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Lauren Meredith
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Released On: May 29, 2013

DOI Project Search Students Celebrate Graduation
The graduating students trickled up to the podium one by one, each ready to present a summary of their experience, hopes and goals. With sound effects, pictures of friends and mentors, and even a knock-knock joke, the presentations were as unique as the graduates.

The Bureau of Reclamation hosted the Department of the Interior Project SEARCH graduating class of 2013 on Wednesday, May 29 at its facilities in Denver. The 11 students, who held internships with several DOI bureaus and the Jefferson County Public School District over the past year, took part in a celebration to commemorate their successful completion of the program.

The graduation ceremony, which was attended by proud mentors, parents and friends, was followed by an elaborate celebration of the students' accomplishments and completion of the Project SEARCH Program.

Virginia Dilley, 19, one of the graduating interns, began her Project SEARCH journey at the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, where she learned the many steps of archiving. She followed this first rotation with internships at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where she worked in the mail room, and the National Parks Service, where her duties included separating evaluation packets, filing records and shredding documents.

Her experience with Project SEARCH has allowed her to become independent in both her work and personal settings, and she aims to find herself working at a movie theater.

Another graduate, Shawn Chase, 19, from Chatfield Senior High proved his incredible work ethic and drive to learn and grow through his internship experiences. His first experience was in the mailroom at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. His second and third rotations were with the Bureau of Reclamation, where he worked in the library and the mail room.

As a Project SEARCH graduate, Shawn hopes to get a job in an office and live on his own.

Project SEARCH is a combined education and work experience program for students with disabilities in their last year of high school. During the program year, students rotate through two to three work experiences that last for 10-15 weeks. In every rotation, the student spends their entire school day with their mentors working and learning employable career skills.

DOI partners with local organizations including Jefferson County Public Schools, Employment Link, Developmental Pathways, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the ARC of Jefferson County to provide students with real-life work experience, independent living skills and employment tools to help them succeed. The Bureau of Reclamation serves as the host agency, providing a classroom, internships and internal coordination, while the other partners provide a teacher, job coaches and support services for students.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at www.usbr.gov.