Get your department involved with the Spartan Project SEARCH Program!

The MSU Dairy Store is one of the most popular places on campus, whether you’re visiting campus for the first time or taking a walk on your lunch break – everyone stops by to get their favorite scoop of ice cream. The Dairy Store has not only been a place for students and families to come, but it has also been a part of a special and unique program on campus that focuses on students with disabilities.

The Spartan Project SEARCH Program aims to help students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program helps students build skills in communication, customer service and working with others, among various other skills. The program offers employment opportunities with different departments on campus through internship opportunities. Students in the program work with a mentor to help with their time at the job sites and transiting after graduation.  One of the smiling faces you may meet at the Dairy Store is a Spartan Project SEARCH Program graduate.

Spartan Project SEARCH graduate Cash helping a male customer at the counter in the MSU Dairy Store.
Spartan Project SEARCH graduate, Cash.

Cash Verhil has been part of the Spartan Project SEARCH Program for the last year. Cash works at the Dairy Store part-time and a restaurant in Lansing. The Spartan Project SEARCH Program has helped him gain skills in feeling more confident in interacting with people. According to Cash, the biggest takeaways from his work at the Dairy Store have been “gaining independence, being responsible and customer service.” This fall, Cash will be a student at Lansing Community College and hopes to transfer to MSU to study Human Resources or Economics.

“Cash has always been willing to help and do whatever task is necessary,” commented Brekelle Wiedenmannott, Dairy Store Manager. This program has helped Cash’s personal journey and equipped him with skills he can apply to his other job.

The program not only helps students gain job skills, but it is also beneficial for the departments that employ them. “With hiring from the program, you’re able to see how far the student has come,” said Wiedenmannott. Wiedenmannott has been able to watch Cash’s progress and enjoys having him as part of the team.

The Spartan Project SEARCH Program has internship sites throughout campus from the College of Communications Arts and Sciences, the College of Education, the Dairy Store and more. This program not only brings skills for employment but confidence as well for the students. Cash’s mentor, Johnny Wenzel, has worked with the program for the last two years. “Seeing how [the interns] are growing and learning new skills are the highlights of my day,” commented Wenzel.

The number one goal from the program is having the interns find employment after they graduate. The program hopes to have more departments get involved as internship sites for their students. If you’re interested in getting your department involved in the program, mentoring or learning more about internship possibilities, visit the Spartan Project SEARCH website for information. And next time you’re at the Dairy Store, say hi to Cash and get a scoop of his favorite ice cream – the Sesquicentennial Swirl.

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