Breaking Ground 107 - Project Search: The Place for Opportunity

By Mikey Newton, intern at Project Search: Wilderness at the Smokies

Mikey Newton is an intern at Project SEARCH: Wilderness at the Smokies Waterpark Resort and Family Adventure Center. Mikey is enjoying his role as a lobby attendant for his first internship at the resort and thinks he may like to work at the front desk next.

a casual headshot of Mikey Newton, a young adult white man in a dark green button down short-sleeved shirt, with brown hair and a brown beard. He is standing with his hands behind his back and smiling


Project SEARCH is an international model for helping people with disabilities learn job skills through internships at community businesses.

Jennifer Jeffers, Program Director at the Project SEARCH site in Sevierville, TN at the Wilderness of the Smokies Waterpark Resort and Family Adventure Center, shared: “This is the third year of this program. Our interns are between ages 18-21 when the school year starts. Wilderness at the Smokies is a hospitality location that has 4 water parks, 743 guest rooms, 3 retail shops, 8 food service areas, and a variety of opportunities to help our interns become marketable employees. We have been honored to have 10 interns participate over the first two years of the program. Nine of them are currently employed in a variety of settings (one young man is not able work right now due to the pandemic). We are excited about the 5 young men who began working in their first internships this September. Our county is going to gain 5 great employees thanks to this partnership between Wilderness at the Smokies management and staff, Sevier County School District, and our partners at The Access Program and Vocational Rehabilitation.”

“Though I’ve only been attending Project Search for a little over two weeks now, already we’ve done so many things together. We’ve done fun activities, learned about each other, and even toured River and Stone Lodge! Surprisingly, I had only learned that Project Search was a global organization last week. I’ve made some new friends, explored some interesting places, and overall, I couldn’t be happier. After all, this is much better than high school, that’s all I can say!

But what does this project mean to me? Well, it’s a great opportunity for me personally because without this, it would’ve been much harder for me to find a good-paying job. Even if I don’t find a job I want here, the great people of Project Search promised that they would ensure we all have jobs before letting us go, so I’m confident my future is sealed. The job I’m looking at for my first internship is lobby attendant, but dishwasher could also be something I might enjoy doing. As for my third internship (if I do a third one), it will most likely be front desk. I know those don’t seem like outlandish jobs, but for me, it’s perfect.

One of my favorite things about Project Search is how nice all the staff are here. They take things slow, they make sure we’re following along with what they’re telling us, and they make sure to answer all of our questions with integrity and kindness. There are lots of reasons to get involved with Project Search: You could be a disabled guy or girl looking to get a good job in the future. You could be a parent wanting to make sure your child is taken care of when you pass away. You could even be a staff member wanting to help the new generation work our future jobs.

In any case, Project Search was made for you! They have everything here: kind and just instructors, spacious facilities, and great jobs! Some of them are hard, but you can’t be successful without hard work. Trust me, trying to take the easy way out is never a good way to get things done. They’re also getting us used to presenting and hosting meetings.

Remember, Project Search is a fine organization with teams ranging across the world! Every intern you see at work represents trials and errors of work, and just know, ANYONE can work if they’re willing to put in the effort to at least try.”