Saturday, May 29, 2010

The first week

I arrived in DC last Saturday with very low expectations. I assumed I would be the usual withdrawn self that sits in front of a computer 24/7 programming. The way I am has been both a curse and blessing. I spend much of my life in solitude with the internet as my only means of communication. I am not good at making friends and often see social events as a waste of my time. However because of this attitude I am able to learn amazing things and can program in about 20 computer languages. I run multiple websites and am often contacted by teachers and friends to create complicated web based applications. I assumed DC would be the same, I would be siting in my cubicle bored out of my mind because the work I was given would be too easy.
I was way off. As I walked out of the terminal doors and took a breath of the humidity filled DC air it was almost as though the chain was taken off my neck and I was free to fly. I was no longer afraid to approach people and talk, and my "poetic soul" has come back to me. This is a very key part of who I am; A couple years ago I was really into poetry and even got 3rd place in one of the largest youth teen poetry festivals in the world. You can check out my performances here, here, and here. Poetry is a very important part of who I am and helps me express myself, it is art, it is my soul, it is me. I am very glad I got it back... although I suppose it never really left, just hibernated.
The orientation this week allowed me to have a better understanding of the business world as well as the disability world. I am ready to take the role of disabled activist and work for change in this world. I feel I am prepared to work and understand how to talk to my boss if my work is too easy or too hard.
Thank you AAPD for preparing me for the workplace and getting my poetic soul back!

Week One: Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

Week one was a jam-packed orientation for what will be an awesome summer! What I was most excited by is the mentor-ship program AAPD has facilitated. As a Finance major with a minor in Economics, it makes a perfect match that my mentor, Gary Goosman, is a Director for the Tower Initiative of the United States Business Leaders Network (USBLN). Upon graduation from Temple University next May, I plan on going into the financial services sector in the capacity of an investment banker or wealth manager, and Gary is connected to leaders in all industries. I knew networking would be a major determinant of how I would measure my success this summer, but I had no idea that we, as AAPD interns, would be introduced to so many great individuals through the program. Also, as a collective group, the AAPD interns have become a great network and I am happy to have met them all. I am excited to share this experience with them! On our final day of orientation, we were given an excellent tour of the FDR Memorial, and I'll close with a FDR quote that echoes my optimism and my view of this summer as an opportunity to seize, "The only thing to fear is fear itself." Next Tuesday I will begin my internship in Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers office and I cannot wait to start!

Jimmy Curran

Friday, May 28, 2010


AAPD: A second chance at success
After arriving in the DC airport, coming from what seems like another country, Madison Wisconsin, I was filled with a brand new and unexpected fear that was foreign to me. How am I going to make it in a city that I know nothing about? I was completely lost! I got off the plane and had to ask the security guard to explain how to get my luggage off, how to flag a cab, and where am I supposed to go? Luckily the Washington DC security was more than accommodating to me, they even explained where South Hall (My new home) was located and put me in a cab destined for F street. Unfortunately I had forgot that my keys were not located at the Dormitory. So I began my journey to the housing headquarters, completely lost and with now hurting back. I began to feel sad and scared, could I actually make it in one of the biggest cities in America, with a debilitating anti-immunity disability Ankylosing Spondylitis. I had 10 dollars left in my pocket after cab fare (Thank GOD!) and I had no clue how to navigate through the gridlocked street addresses. The people at student housing were so kind, they got me registered for my dorm, and gave me a map to start learning my location.
I was still in terror of a city 5 times the size of my hometown, Madison WI. I spent the first night trying to convince myself I CAN DO THIS. AAPD has given me an opportunity…Car Pa Diem…I will make the best of this amazing opportunity, I will not fail. After Meeting Sarah Peterson, My world became much more understandable. Sarah was amazing. I don’t know how to explain exactly what happened after talking to Sarah, but I knew I would be able to succeed if I listened to the instructions carefully. I have only been here for 5 days and I feel so much more comfortable. THANK YOU AAPD!!!
- Justin Patterson

Week One: Orientation, Mentoring and Popcorn

Its been a busy but exciting week. The orientation the first two days was quite intense. I believe that the program was well-organized and full of useful information on the whole internship experience. I especially liked the segment on the history of the disability rights movement. The AAPD staff and other speakers helped share with us their knowledge and experiences inside the beltway. I enjoyed meeting and speaking with my mentor Stacy Cervenka. Stacy is a former AAPD intern who first interned with Senator Brownback’s office and now works on his staff.

Yesterday each of the interns set up visits with the Congressional office or other location where they will be interning. After taking the Metro to Union Station, and walking a few blocks towards the Capitol, there I was in front of the Hart Senate Office Building. I felt pretty nervous but I took the elevator and started trying to find Senator Tom Harkin’s office.

So now that we have read about the orientation and the mentoring, why is it that I am writing about popcorn? Well, I love popcorn, buttery and not too salty. When I was coming to Washington for my AAPD internship I packed popcorn, and when I walked into Senator Harkin’s Office one of the first things that I noticed is that they have a popcorn machine. Suddenly, I relaxed a bit. No I did not completely relax, there was still some nervous tension about what the internship would entail and making a good first impression. But I did feel more comfortable that there was popcorn and that I would be interning in a popcorn-friendly working environment. I met my internship coordinator, Caitlin, and one of my fellow interns for the summer session.

Seeing the popcorn maker made the whole experience seem more down to earth. Senate Offices are very formal places and the popcorn machine brought it down a notch. The popcorn maker in Senator Harkin’s office was not just any popcorn machine. It was a replica of an older kind of machine and it was made in Iowa and pops only Sioux City, Iowa popcorn. It is a friendly reminder to visitors to the Senator’s office of one of Iowa’s major products. It was pretty cool that Senator Harkin has free food for his office-workers and visitors, but also that the machine comes from his constituency and is a visual and aromatic demonstration of the Senator’s commitment to his state Iowa and its economy.

The popcorn is made fresh. When I was there they were popping fresh popcorn. The fresh popcorn reminded me of being a kid at the carnival. The office has several other cool features with photographs of different Iowa scenes like the State Fair and books on Iowa. So stop on by Senator Harkin’s office this summer while I am interning there and try the popcorn.

My first blog ever

Today I forgot about the tour of the FDR Memorial and went to the metro to get my disability fare card for the metro and got lost on my way there and had to ask a metro worker where to go, then I went to the office and was told it will be 25 min but it was actually more like an hour and a half then I finally got my card. Then I found that I had missed the FDR memorial tour and I felt horrible, because I hadn't intended to miss it I just forgot because I was so focused on get my metro card that it slipped my mind. Then on my way back I put money on my card and when I went to use it the machine said it didn't have any which was not true it had five dollars on it. The good news is I went out and ate dinner with most of the AAPD interns and hung out and got to know them better so all in all it was a good day even though I missed the tour which kind of sucks.
I'd like to thank everyone who reads my blog. If you can comment on the blog feel free to comment on it or if you have any tips I open to suggestions.

First Week in DC

Hey everyone, this is Ron Nunes. I'm originally from Staten Island, New York, and I go to college in Myrtle Beach, SC at a Horry Georgetown Technical College. Once I get my Associates degree next spring, i'll be starting the online program they offer with Western Kentucky University to attain a Bachelors Degree in Applied Sciences. As this is my first blog post, I figured that I would fill you in a bit on what happened my first week in DC.

First, arriving here was hectic. Parking was crazy for my dad, who drove me up, and he ended up with a parking ticket, which was not fun. Otherwise the first day was pretty good. The intern orientation was interesting and fun to attend, and the mixer on the second day was very enjoyable. I met some wonderful people and made some great connections. I look forward to meeting more people in the future.

This weekend me and a friend are heading to Six Flags America, and to the Smithsonian.

It's getting late, I should get to bed as tomorrow is Six Flags day!


A Self Introduction

Hey All!! I just want to start by introducing myself. Currently my parents live in Gilbert, AZ which is a suburb of Phoenix, so that is where I call home. Originally, I was born and spent most of my life in Wisconsin, but since my dad was in the navy I have lived in New Orleans and Texas, too. I am a 19 year old rising senior at William Woods University in Fulton, MO. I know...that sounds a little young, I am doing college in 3 years instead of 4. My major is Political and Legal Studies. I am interested in going into either Public Policy or opening my own private practice in Wealth Management and Estate Planning. My school is pretty small, only 1000 people, but we have great faculty and staff. Since our class sizes are only about 30 people or less, you really get to know your professors. Unfortunately, because we are so small, we don't have a lot of diversity. This is a really interesting experience for me because I have never been exposed to a huge disability community. I am learning so much about accomadations and the difficulties other people face in their day to day lives. This week during orientation has really opened my eyes to a whole new community. I especially enjoyed the spiel David Hale and Patrick Coley gave us on the history of the disability rights movement. My favorite part of orientation was being introduced to my mentor and the networking mixer. My mentor is Cheryl Sensenbrenner who is the wife of Congressman Sensenbrenner (R-WI). She is a very outgoing spunky lady, and I hope to learn a lot from her. I am also very excited about my placement. I am working for Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI). Congressman Ryan serves the district I lived in when I was in middle and high school, so his name and politics are both very familiar to me. I can't wait to start next Tuesday, June 1st. I really suppose that is all I have for now. Signing off,Ericka

The First Week.

Hi everyone! I am a twenty-one year old from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who attends the University of Wisconsin located in one of the greatest college towns Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to attending my home state’s university, I have the pleasure of working for my congressman, Jim Sensenbrenner of the 5th district of Wisconsin. It has not been my first time in the District, but the warm welcome from AAPD has made my first week here in Washington as exciting as if it has been my first time. What has been the most profound thing to happen to me since coming to Washington and becoming oriented with AAPD? It would have to be the unconditional willingness of AAPD staff and people connected with AAPD to share with me their connections throughout the city to help me further enrich my summer experience and launch me in the right direction towards a future career in Washington. AAPD has paired me with a highly accomplished mentor named Ollie Cantos, who in addition to being an active member in the disability community, works for the Department of Justice. Considering how I hope someday to practice law and work for the government, Ollie’s willingness to connect me with other law professionals has been amazing. The sky seems to be the limit and I can not wait for what lies ahead.

How's my website accessibility?

Hi, my name is Yair Silbermintz & I'm a Computer Science student at Yeshiva University. I will be interning at ITI as a web developer this summer, focusing on making their website & the websites for their disability initiatives more accessible.

I have to admit, I was a bit weary about taking on this task. Making websites accessible seems easy at first, but if not watched closely a minor oversight in programming or design can lead to major problems. There are plenty of accessibility guides on the web, but they are geared toward government workers and often too dry and technical for a new web developer to read. Even when I did buckle down and look into 508 compliance, what I found was mostly too outdated to apply to the modern interactive web. I quickly became determined to make researching web accessibility issues a prime focus of my internship.

The past few days in D.C. have been extremely interesting. During orientation I had the opportunity to meet many interesting people, including my fellow interns, the AAPD staff, AAPD internship alumni & members, and other people in the disability community. The most interesting portion of the orientation, for me, was an information session on disability rights and history. It started off with an overview of how people with disabilities were treated in the past, went on to cover the disability rights movement, and gradually morphed into an overview of the disability laws currently in force. While this was going on, I was able to keep track of a senate hearing on possible updates to these laws thanks to AAPDs Jenifer Simpson constantly posting updates to twitter (If your interested in what happened at the hearing, you can check out the COAT twitter page or watch an archive video of the hearing). Hearing for the first time about both the efforts originally made and the efforts currently going on for disability rights was particularly inspiring.

I want to end my first post here with a question for anyone who uses assistive technology to view the web. What would you consider the toughest & most common problem you have when trying to use the internet daily? Please post your issues in the comments below, and I will make sure to look into them over the course of my internship.

A Summer of Opportunity

As I prepared to embark on my journey as an AAPD Congressional Intern for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, I contemplated what I wanted to accomplish this summer. I view this summer as an outstanding opportunity to enrich my understanding of the intricacies of the legislative process, to learn from the experiences of others and apply what I learn to my own life, to explore the rich cultural offerings and unique attributes of Washington DC, and to explore how my experiences this summer align with the knowledge I’ve accumulated as a Political Science major at Vanderbilt University.

In addition to sharing what I hope to achieve this summer, I’d like to take this opportunity to situate my goals for this summer within the spectrum of what I hope to accomplish professionally. I view a career as an opportunity to make the world a better place and a chance to advocate on behalf of people on a group or case level. I believe that the legal field presents a unique opportunity to advocate on behalf of groups or individuals due to the specialized knowledge required to practice law as well as the profound influences that legal decisions, regulations, and laws have on the lives of all individuals. Though I’m uncertain of whether or not I want to pursue a career in policy advocacy or private practice, I intend to use this summer as an opportunity to observe, educate, and prepare myself to help make the world a better place. Please join me as I embark on a journey this summer in Washington DC to learn, observe, and explore all of the opportunities DC has to offer.

First Week with AAPD

Hello everyone, my name is Jae Lee, I am a sophomore at Virginia Tech studying Political Science and Communications. I am honored to be a part of American Association of Peoples with Disabilities during this summer as the communications intern. I work directly in the AAPD office and have the pleasure of being surrounded by the great group of people in DC!

First, I would like to thank Becki Panoff and David Hale for bringing me on board with AAPD and for making the transition into the office so easy and comfortable.

I was going to write a narrative about the first week, but it was now 4:10 a.m Friday morning and I have to wake up in three hours to see you all again, so I'll just go with the typical blogpost, but please keep a lookout in the upcoming weeks for a fun post! (I had half of it done before I realized that it was so late)

As a communications intern, I will be helping Becki find news articles regarding the current events of the disability community, and helping her manage the AAPD social networking sites and various media outlets. I will also take on a video project, counting down to the 20th anniversary of the ADA, interviewing prominent leaders in the disability community in the DC area. I am very excited to speak with all the people we have lined up to do the interviews and I hope that you will all enjoy them on our Youtube Channel!

My favorite part of this week, other than meeting you all, was the networking reception on Thursday evening. Having the opportunity to meet and speak with all the leaders of the disability community was an experience of a lifetime. I thought i knew so much about how our government functioned before coming to DC, but speaking with everyone made me realize that I have a lot more to learn about how our nations capital works.

I hope that I will be able to go back to school this fall and show off to all my friends about how my summer was so much better than theirs!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Challenge Yourself, Change the World

In the summer of 2007 I had the opportunity to join a group of students traveling to Costa Rica on a cross-cultural exchange on disability rights through Mobility International USA. This was the first time I really got to experience disability and its sense of community. Suddenly I had validation for the feeling that I was not "wrong" in being disabled, but that society or the powers that be were wrong in disabling me. I came away from the experience feeling empowered and passionate, and determined to live by MIUSA's motto of "Challenge yourself, change the world." I went away to school and immersed myself in the disability community at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, feeling confident in my identity as a person with a disability. I plastered my dorm walls with reminders from my Costa Rica trip, and constantly repeated the motto to myself when I became unsure of trying new things.

Arriving in DC and meeting so many amazing leaders in the community, I am realizing simply having the motto of "Challenge yourself, change the world" is not enough. The leaders here who are forcing change and raising up our community do not simply wake up certain mornings and say, "I guess I'll try a new challenge." They live it, they breath it, they love it. At times I got the impression it is not even a way of life they think about, but a gut reaction. At their core they know they want to change the world for our community, and they challenge themselves in every action to bring about change. I have been so inspired by all the leaders who have taken the time to mentor us and give us advice. And I hope through my time in DC this summer some of this "challenge fever" will rub off on me.

My internship will be in Senator Durbin's office this summer. I am a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Go Illini!) where I study English and Political Science. I will also be studying abroad this fall at the University of Nottingham (home of Robin Hood and the Sherwood Forest) in England.

Internship Blog for Week One

Hello! My name is David Thaddeus Cardenas and I am from Chicago, Illinois, a large urban area in the Midwest. I will be interning at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Headquarters.

I arrived in DC on Sunday (May 23, 2010) at around 2pm. At the airport, I was very frustrated because my third bag did not come out. I waited around an hour and ten minutes and then I went to help desk and asked about it. I gave the lady at desk my ticket number and she checked on the computer and told me that my bag will arrive at 4pm and they would send it to me.

When I arrived at George Washington University (GWU) but before entering the apartment, I had to go to housing operation for keys and access ID. I went to BBQ at South Hall on Monday (May 24, 2010) and attended a meeting with David Hale, Andrew Imparato, Sarah Peterson, and other AAPD interns. They were very nice and friendly and I made some new friends.

It was so exciting going to summer intern orientation to see what’s going on and events and network with other persons there. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I went to an orientation meeting at K&L Gates; it was a beautiful building! I learned from the meeting about business cards, how to be professional to people, and various other things. That made me more excited; I can’t wait to start working next Tuesday.

I very much like my Mentor, David Baquis. He is very nice and very much supports the ADA. He impressed me very much; I enjoyed chatting with him. My favorite part of the orientation is social networking because it’s a chance to meet new people and learn about different agencies involved with the government.

I am very thankful for AAPD Summer Intern Orientation because it prepares us and helps get ready to work hard this summer! This is really a great opportunity for any AAPD Summer Intern.

My First Blog of AAPD

My First Blog of AAPD:

I want to start my INTRODUCTION about myself; my name is Kevin Whetstone, and currently a student at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York for Applied Computer Technology for Associate’s degree for Networking Concentration and currently an intern of 2010 Microsoft-AAPD IT intern for United States Coast Guard, Office of Legal Program

My first blog would be about my experience being in Washington DC, I like the climate, and weather related to Washington DC, and I been in Washington DC since May 23, 2010. I met my three roommates and they are cool people, however, two of the people that I met, they are also attending to same school as me but other one attend to other school in New Jersey. I start to realize that I can work with people with disabilities because they are going through same problems in different ways but we agree we will work together as team and roommates.

Being an internship for AAPD give me a great opportunities to work with Federal Agency in Washington DC and able to work with AAPD interns of different department. Also, I am happy with AAPD to give me an opportunity to work with Federal Agency to fulfill my dream since I was little kid who have a disability who block my dream but I am happy to say that I am part of AAPD community and Washington DC.

AAPD also provide wonderful events for people with disabilities and people who internship for headquarter for AAPD, I also enjoy meeting people with disabilities and people who cared about us, and also, I met the famous people that passed the ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act.

In conclusion, I really want to thank the AAPD for this wonderful opportunity and I am looking forward to meeting important people and networking with more people.


I’d like my first post to be an overview of who I am & where I’m coming from as well what I’m hoping to get out of participating in AAPD’s Congressional Intern program this summer. First off, my name is Meredith Nicholson & I will be interning in the office of Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). I currently attend Smith College in Northampton, MA, where I will be a junior this fall. I am double majoring in Spanish & Government, with a focus in American Government. During my first year at Smith College, I attended a Women in Congress seminar right on Capitol Hill organized by the Public Leadership Education Network & it convinced me that it was possible for me to get my foot in the door & work on the Hill if I wanted to. So I’m unbelievably excited to find myself back in Washington D.C. a little more than a year later interning in the office of a female congresswoman & one whose Alma matter is Smith College at that!

We just finished two jam-packed days of orientation which made me feel much more prepared to have a successful internship experience nonetheless. Andraea Lavant from the National Consortium on Leadership & Disability for Youth offered a very succinct analogy about our upcoming internships, which involved someone getting into their car with the intent on driving to the beach, yet driving around aimlessly in an attempt to reach their destination & ending up in the countryside. While the countryside is beautiful & worthy place, it wasn’t the individual’s intended destination, either. I believe this analogy does a great job summing up how as interns participating in this program, we’ll get the most out of this amazing opportunity when we not only articulate what we hope to learn & experience in the process, but formulate a plan to help us get there. With our Learning Objectives Statement articulating our goals for the summer, our mentors, and numerous opportunities for professional networking at our disposal, I’m confident we can all reach the beach if we follow the road that leads us to the beach in the first place & stay on track so that we don’t stray into the countryside. Patrick Cokley from the Office of Disability Employment Policy told us that as interns in Washington D.C. this summer, we have the opportunity to network with almost whomever we want to meet and speak with them about getting where we want to go career-wise. Considering I discovered when working on my Learning Objectives Statement that I am still unsure about whether I prefer the avenue of policy advocacy or that of the policy implementation side, this was great advice. At the AAPD Networking Social & Mixer, I was able to meet several accomplished individuals from each of these fields and have already followed up with several of them about scheduling informational interviews with them so I can speak with them further about their fields of work.

Something important to know about me is that I largely look what policy work I am learning about & engage with through the lens of reproductive justice. Many people have heard about the reproductive rights movement, which largely include legal rights and liberties. Or they have heard about initiatives around reproductive health, which has a large medical component. The reproductive justice movement, though, takes an intersectional approach that links reproductive health with social justice. It recognizes the reproductive health of individuals is connected to many different factors, one of which includes disability. For example, people with disabilities are too often denied the ability to make decisions around reproductive health they deem best for themselves and their families. Forced sterilization & other invasive medical intervention upon people with disabilities without their consent is just one example of this. Many people with disabilities as well as their families have largely struggled with the right to have children & ensure they children they already have are cared for, which isn’t always captured by the “choice” rhetoric the reproductive rights movement often employs. As a person with a disability, if I ever make the personal decision to parent, my choice likely won’t even be affirmed in the first place: instead, I will be seen as a “burden” to my child & to the state to many. There is also the intersection of poverty & disability in many instances that make it harder for individuals with disabilities & their families to ensure personal health & well-being. In this sense, I am interested in how reproductive justice intersects with disability justice. How I can articulate exactly how the two are intertwined and share common ground? This is a question I hope to ultimately answer by engaging further with issues under both rubrics throughout my internship.

As Bobby Silverstein from the law firm Powers, Pyles, Sutter & Verville told the Congressional interns, we should all be recording our experiences so that we can reflect upon them in a truly meaningful way. To walk away from this internship not just with the rudimentary reaction of “That was so cool!” but a more sophisticated observation & analysis of how different components of our federal government work. I plan on keeping a personal journal detailing my experiences for this reason and I’m glad we have this blog to share our experiences with each other, too.

On one last (side) note, little known fact about me: I am a huge art history aficionado & hope to visit some of the many art galleries & art museums here in the Nation's Capital in my spare time.

An Introduction to my Legal/Policy Internship

Hello everyone, my name is Charla Wright. Graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government with a minor in Art History. In the fall, I will be returning to The Catholic University of America Law School as a 2L. But for the summer, I have put down the heavy books and began a summer internship with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).

My internship is quite different from the other internship that AAPD provides. Instead of having a congressional or IT internship, I am working directly in the AAPD office as their legal/policy intern. In this position, I will be analyzing specific legislation, court cases, and topics, such as the Elena Kagan nomination, which AAPD will take positions on. Furthermore, I will be filtering issues that organizations have asked AAPD to take a position on. This includes research on the broad topic, legislative history, relevant current legislation and regulations, court cases which provide explanation and elaboration on the issue, and the media’s portrayal of the issue. Then, I take all of that research and analyze the different positions, complications and consequences of different stances APPD could take. After that analysis I make recommendations to the staff of AAPD. These recommendations include a brief summary on the issue, organizations positions, possible implications, the issue’s relationship to the disability community, and whether I believe AAPD should take a stance on the issue and what that stance is.
The most important questions are whether the issue pertains to the disability community and how it will affect the community. Therefore, if a piece of legislation does not pertain to the disability community, AAPD will most likely not take a stance on the topic because it does not correlate enough with AAPD’s mission.

I hope this boring summary helps explain what I do as the legal/policy intern at AAPD.

I promise my next post will be more interesting!!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

2009 Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation-AAPD Congressional Intern Leah Katz-Hernandez shares her internship experience and a few tips with our incoming 2010 AAPD intern class.

This vlog (video blog) is captioned and in Sign Language, and will be accompanied by an audio transcript by the end of this week. The text transcript of the vlog is above the embedded video. If you can't read the captions here, or if they are cut off by the blog, view Leah's vlog here:


Hello, everybody!

My name is Leah Katz-Hernandez. Im 22 years old and Im profoundly deaf since birth. Im majoring in Government at Gallaudet University. Ive been involved with voter registration drives and volunteering for political campaigns. But my richest experience did not come until last summer, when I joined American Association of People with Disabilities/Mitsubishi Electric America Foundations Congressional internship program. I was so honored!

The best part of interning is that you really get to understand and SEE for yourself how things work from behind the scenes. Being members of the disability community, each one of us always ends up as the ambassadors to the larger community. Thats why the internship program is really important. It allows the youth with disabilities to put themselves out there, get their feet in the door career-wise, and become positive role models to each other. For myself, I learned professional skills and the internship experience was very positive with the support of AAPD staff and their network. Any time I had questions or concerns, I knew that AAPD would be there to support me in my career track.

My experiences last summer changed my life, because I met so many other wonderful interns college people my age who had various different disabilities. We were able to connect with each other and grow extensively from learning more about each others disabilities. We figured out ways to communicate, got creative. I became friends with a blind person who was hearing and we managed to communicate without an interpreter in the dorms! That kind of unique experience, you wont find anywhere else except the AAPD internship program.

I interned in the offices of Congressman Steny Hoyer, who is greatly respected for his support of disability rights. Because he is the Majority Leader, I often go between the two offices in Longworth House Office Building and the Capitol. Every time I walked to the Capitol, I always feel like it is a great privilege and honor to be here. I relished every moment of it. Part of my duties was to give tours. I gave tours to people visiting our nations Capitol. Some of them had never seen a deaf person before, let alone know what sign language is. And they were so impressed that deaf people were present in the Capitol, giving tours, working in the offices. At the end of tours, they often ask me questions and sometimes even take pictures with me. I could see the awe in their faces; they were genuinely amazed to see that people with disabilities were capable of so many things. As an AAPD intern, you also help enhance peoples understanding of what disability means.

AAPDs internship further reinforced my positive outlook on life as a deaf person. I learned a great deal about other people with disabilities. I made new friends, some of them who I still keep in touch today. I was able to reach the next step on in my career experience and learned professional skills. I met many prominent people and went to many events. As an AAPD intern, you always have a unique approach in your internship experience and it is very hard for people to overlook you. When you make the best out of opportunities, sky is the limit!

Thank you. I look forward to meeting you this summer. Best of wishes and good luck!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Look Back at My Internship

2009 Microsoft-AAPD Federal I.T. Intern Mitch Paschen shares his internship experience and a few tips with our incoming 2010 AAPD intern class.

As I walked out of Reagan Airport on May 24, 2009, I knew only one person in the whole Washington DC area, my former summer camp counselor. Other than this one contact, I was in a strange city I had never been to before. From there, I hailed a cab, and was off to Ivory Tower to begin my summer living at the George Washington University. Because of my disability, I required a single room, so I did not have a roommate to make friends with right away. Luckily, as I checked in, I met another AAPD intern who was moving in just across the hall from me. That night, he taught me the rules of the Metro system (he had interned in DC the summer before) and off we went.

Over the next day and a half, I met a few people who were moving in on our floor. When Tuesday finally came, we met with some of the AAPD staff and headed out to their offices. One thing that took getting used to in DC was wearing a suit when it was 85 degrees outside. Once at their offices, we were all introduced to each other. The next day, each of us were paired up with a professional mentor. This helped me to get to know someone who works for a big company outside the government.

The first few days with AAPD are very valuable. Get to know the staff. They are always willing to help you with any questions that you might have, not just about your job placements, but things around the city as well.

My job placement was US Customs and Border Protection (I was an IT intern). I spent most of the summer learning about and helping with LAN support. After getting to know some of the employees fairly well, they asked me come back again this summer. Thus, this will be my second year interning for them. These job placements are not only great hands on experience, but they are also great networking opportunities. Your job placement may just turn into a full time employment offer after college. You never know!

Here are some tips for making your internship experience more enjoyable for the summer:

1) Go sightseeing on weekends. I still have only seen about half the things there are to see and I went out every Saturday and Sunday. Also, most of the sights in DC are free, so go nuts! The best thing to do is get a group of around 4 or 5 interns and go somewhere different each week.

2) After you check in the first day, find the nearest grocery store, general store, dry cleaners, restaurants (go out often, but watch prices, sales tax in DC is 10%), post office, and Metro stop. These tools will prove invaluable over the summer.

3) If you aren't satisfied with the work your employer is providing you (i.e. it is mostly gruntwork), do not be afraid to ask for more. You are there to learn and help out.

4) If feasible, arrange for your family to come out and see you later in the summer. You can show them everything you have learned and how you are adapting to capital city life.

5) Go to a Washington Nationals baseball game. Tickets are super cheap, and who doesn't love an old fashioned baseball game? Plus, they usually never sell out.

6) Visit Gravelly Point on a Sunday afternoon (to get there, just take the Metro to Reagan Airport and walk north).

7) Go to AAPD events if you can get off work. One of my main reasons for going was that they usually serve food at them (as a college student, I cannot turn down free food). Also, many prominent politicians may be in attendance.

8) Last but not least, do something you wouldn't normally do at home. I several times took a walk to the Lincoln Memorial at 2am. Another time, I just started walking north to see where I would end up. (If you decide to walk southeast, make sure it is during daylight hours).Have a great summer and drink plenty of water (it gets very hot and humid there midday).

Mitch Paschen, 2009 Microsoft-AAPD Federal I.T. Intern