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    My Story: Liz Atkinson

    When I was around 9 years old, I was officially diagnosed with Autism. I attended public school until my freshman year of high school when I moved to Lakeland School in Elkhorn, WI to finish my schooling.  High school was a great time in my life. I was student of the year, I had a job that I liked and I was happy. However, things changed after graduation. I went on to an adult program but I was unhappy there. It did not help me to reach my full potential and while it was fun, I knew I could do more. My mom was helping me look for a new program when she found a program sponsored by Goodwill® called “Project SEARCH”. The program takes place at the Milwaukee County Zoo and is designed to help people with disabilities learn skills and find a job.

    At first I was skeptical that I would even get into the program but I went on to complete the Project SEARCH Skills Assessment and Interview Day at the Zoo. When they called and told my mom that I was accepted in the program, I was so excited! During the nine month program, I was a happy camper. I liked my teacher, Shelly, my job coaches Sam and Anna, and I even made new friends! Throughout my experience with Project SEARCH, I had the opportunity to learn many new tasks, develop relationships with my peers and the Zoo employees, and it increased my self-confidence and self-esteem. I was able to gain experience in public speaking, and learn the important skills of customer service, reliability and teamwork.

    As part of the job development efforts by Goodwill and Project SEARCH, they hosted a number of employer tours at the Zoo and it was then that I expressed my interest in working at Goodwill. My new-found confidence and experience helped me with the application and interview process and soon I was hired as a Production Associate at the local Goodwill in New Berlin, Wisconsin. I receive onsite job coaching support from my manager, Dan, and my job coach, Danielle, during each of my shifts. I look forward to going to work every day. As I learned in Project SEARCH, I know I can “make a difference every day.” Thank you Goodwill!

    As originally seen on Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin and Metropolitan Chicago.

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