In the last blog post I described some events that occurred during my second week. As many of you know I had the most laidback two weeks ever and my nickname should be the "professional slacker". On Monday I took the train up to Batimore with the rest of the NDRN interns and Eric Bruehlmann, the executive deputy director of NDRN, although the train ride was not very long. I had the opportunity to interact with the other Interns who I have not met before. Both of them are enrolled in the New York City colleges and the internship is sponsored by the college, let's not hear it for New York! Once we checked in to our hotel room, we had to change into business attire as we had a staff meeting within a hour. At the Staffings Interns were given their responsibilities, I was paired up with Stephen(the individual who I was sharing the hotel with) and my primary duties were to make sure the mic was working, pass around the microphone to anyone who wanted to use it and pass around the handouts for each individual session at the entrance. I always aspired to be the next Jerry Springer, Walmart greeter and a behind the scenes producer. If anything this conference allowed me the opportunity to do some career exploration.. Most agencies or organizations do not let their interns be included in the organizational structure or planning process, NDRN is a definite exception to this rule as they made the interns feel like "they were apart of the family". After the meeting with Eric, Cindy and Patrick was over me, Stephen and Chen Chen went to a very elegant Japanese restaurant. As I looked at the menu I have never seen so many different kinds of Sushie rolls in my life. As a Chicago Native, if you go to a Sushie resturant in our city don't be surprised to wake up the next morning with food poisoning. Nevertheless I ordered a "double crab roll". When I asked the waitress "how big is the sushie", she looked at me and said "it is sushie". I guess she did not realize that I am from Chicago maybe I should have said "fo sure" to clear the air! Nevertheless the sushie was fantastic, I never tasted raw fish before, however there is a first time for everything.The only problem I had with the restaurant is that they provided chop sticks instead of forks and spoons, so I found myself inadvertently flicking noodles in the air, my goal is to turn from novice to expert during the next 8 weeks.
The next four days would be nine hour work days as I had to get up at 4 am, attend the staff meeting with the the rest of the NDRN staff at 7 and than begin monitoring the rooms. During the Staff meetings, Curt would talk about how each conference session went, any room for improvement and any accessibility issues. Since many individuals attending the conference had a disability, we wanted to make sure that everything went smoothly and these individuals had the best experience possible. During the staff meeting you could see the passion in the room for maximizing the potential of individuals with disabilities. Many agencies say they are strong disability advocates, however they engage in behavior contradictory of what they preach, you could see through the staff meetings that NDRNtele is the real deal!! It is remarkable how many individuals play a role in organizing a conference. The basic assumption is that the only thing we need to do is schedule the speakers, however people don't realize that it takes two years to prepare a conference, everything needs to be perfect and everyo has to be on the same page from the AV equipment guy to the Room monitors and moderators to the slide person. Heck even the guy who goes around to different rooms offering the audience peanuts needs to do this without a glitch. In other words "please make sure you hand out peanuts to the spectators and not something else".
One of the most remarkable presentations at the Conference was the one on the Client Assistance Program(CAP). The Client Assistance Program oversees the VR agencies and handles any complaint made by a client as it relates to the VR counselor or agency. This may appear shocking to the reader, however as a recent graduate of the Rehabilitation Counseling Program, I had never heard of the Client Assistance Program or CAP Advocacy. I guess this is VR's "dirty little secret", it was interesting to see how structured an agency has to be in their adminstration of Vocational Rehabilitation services. During the presentation Jim Doyle from RSA mentioned that there are five states which did not meet CAP standards in the year 2012, one of them was the great state of Illnois(really? you could have fooled me). In order to satisfy CAP standards an agency must meet all of the requirements such as: proper transition services, supported employment services and proper closure of client's cases. Another interesting part of the CAP lecture was to see the discussion between the CAP Advocates and RSA. Both parties came to an excellent consensus on how VR services should be administered.
Another very informative lecture was the PAIMI presentation. This presentation was very interesting to me because as a person who has worked with individuals who have severe mental illness(SMI), I never realized that there is a protection and advocacy group out there that can help these individuals. Many of the Veteran's at Hines are highly stigmatized based on their condition and it is a good thing to note that there is a group out there that can help these individuals. The National organization NAMI is awesome, I have a friend who is apart of it, however NAMI cannot fight the stigma by itself, Pat Corrigan, a distingunished professor at IIT who is known for his work on stigma of individuals with mental illness cannot do it alone we need more help! more individuals who are passionate about the cause. The Protection and Advocacy group for individuals with mental illness started out as eight organizations in eight states and has expanded to 180 organizations across the country. In the long run I feel that this expansion will only maximize the potential for individuals with severe mental illness and promote their inclusion into the workplace. This is one of the many "take home messages" that I can bring back to Chicago as I plan to educate the advocacy groups in illnois about this wonderful organization. I also had the opportunity to network with the President of Thresholds!
1. AAPD and Ms Dana Fink: I forgot to do a shoutout to Dana last week, however I could say that "if it was not for this or that person, I would have not been apart of the program", but if it were not for Dana and the rest of the AAPD I definitely would not be apart of this wonderful program. Dana did a wonderful job arranging the orientation events and working with me to ensure that I can attend the conference. It also helps that she is from Illinois... Our state is kind of a big deal you should know us!. Thank you Dana.
Walmart- If it were not for Walmart's support this program would not exist. Thank you Walmart for your support!