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!

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