Sunday, June 17, 2012

"Crazy Train"

" The truth is you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed."

After spending three weeks in the nation's capital, I can honestly say that there are two areas which set DC apart from all of its counterparts. In most cities a person typically wakes up in the morning to the smell of coffee or tea(whatever the individual prefers), this is the start of a typical work day as the individual is alert and ready to begin the day after indulging on these beverages. In Washington the way we wake up is a little bit different, we don't wake up to the smell of coffee, to the sound of eggs boiling or to a Egg Mcmuffin sandwich. Our Alarm clock goes off when we go up the escalators on Foggy Bottom's metro station in front of 300 other commuters. Needless to say if you do not go up the escalators in an efficient manner you will ether A) get squashed by others, B) We will be singing Johnny Cashs' "aint no grave can hold this body down" or C) you will be greeted with Washington DC hospitality and no the greeting cards will not read "you are awesome".  Unlike the CTA Metro stops where there are only 3 people on the platform. Expect "the race to the train" to be a competition as each day has its winners(those individuals who board the train) and losers(those who miss the train). "We call the latter folks the weakest link!.... goodbye!"  So it began my first day on the job in the midst of the gradeur, glory and uniqueness that accompanies D.C! and yes this was a crazy train before we reached our destination!

On my first day I arrived at NDRN headquarters around 10 as I was lost at Union Station. My UIC peeps can compare Union Stationto The Behavioral Science Building  where every turn you make is a wall replace the walls with live people and we have Union Station. My IIT peeps can think of Union Station as the IIT tower, you know that big ugly looking buliding no one wants to enter?, but is the most important one on campus?. When I finally arrived to work, I was greeted with "hellos" and "glad to have you on board" before I entered my office. I thought to myself "Boy if I screw up"... the good folks at NDRN will be quoting The  Smpsons by saying "thank you come again!"  On the first day Cindy, my supervisor handed  my keys to me  and my I.D badge. In addition to all of  the fun stuff, I was assigned my first project: Reviewing a 170 page Government grant and coming up with a reference list in APA format, I was excited about the opportunity to help out with the grant and felt like Tom Cruise in Mission impossible and no the message did not disappear within 5 seconds! This was an amazing introduction into the world of work as I have not been one for time management, however drawing the allusion to the assembly line helped me budget my time. When you buy food from Taco Bell, there are many behind the scenes preparations taking place. One guy brings out the taco, another puts sauce on the burrito, the third guy puts toppings on it and finally it is rolled up and ready to be indulged upon.  If the "sauce guy" messes up than the order is of no use and customers get angry.... Welcome to the world of Taco Bell..Grant Writing is very similar to what happens in a fast food chain there are many individuals behind the scenes who are working to make sure the proposal gets passed. One individual does the citations, another comes up with statements to support the citations, you have the awesome PH.Ds who make sure the methods and introduction section is well written and finally you have the IT person who makes sure that the grant gets submitted properly. If one of these individuals does not do his or her job than  we may send them to Taco Bell to learn the ropes(just kidding).  During the week I had the chance to see how awesome the NDRN grant writing team really is(I will explain more later) There are many Hall of fame components to NDRN and the grant writing team makes the top 10 list!

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to attend our weekly staff meeting. Prior to the meeting I thought that it would be just the public policy staff attending the meeting, however once I got in the room it was quite evident that we could sell out the Verizon center with the number of people in attendance. I got to meet  Curt Decker, the founder of NDRN again who had already memorized my name. I was absolutely amazed that someone of his stature and reputation already knew the name of the "new kid in town". I will express my admiration for Eric, Cindy and Curt in the later blog postings, but let's just say the meeting went off without a hitch. Some folks even joined us from New York  via satelite on skype!. Every time the individual from New York would speak, I always thought that at the end of his presentation he would say "Live from New York, it is Saturday Night Live!. During the meeting we discussed how the conference went, which sessions worked and which sessions were did not meet the expectations, the overall view of the hotel and any room for improvements. Several interesting points were raised and everyone arrived at the consenus that this was an amazing conference and that the Mariott hotel staff were wonderful. In addition to discussing the conference there were a lot of important events occuring in DC that were on the Agenda list. Several pieces of legistration were discussed(du to confidentiality I cannot disclose some things that were mentioned). One event in particular that occurred during the weekend concerned the hotel industry's boycott of the accessible swimming pool bill that was going to be passed by Congress last Tuesday, however during the 11th hour, the hotel industry were involved in a massive boycott appealing the new ADA amendments causing Congress to reject the new ammendments. As a result of the boycott . NDRN, The National Council on Independent Living(NCIL) and the American Association of Persons with Disabilities(AAPD, yay another  inadvertent shoutout to Ms. Dana Fink and Mark P) are working tiredlessly to get Congress to reconsider the appeal. I have no doubt that with the dream team in on the cause. We will get this piece of legistration passed!

The rest of the week involved literature reviews and citations for the grant. On Friday I did my last round of citations, finalized the reference list and submitted to my awesome supervisor Cindy for review. At 4:00 we had a conference call with one of the contributors of the grant and the editor. During this time I had an opportunity to see how the grant process works. It is amazing how much goes into the grant writing process such as: organizing statements in a clear coherent and logical fashion, making sure the citations match with the supporting statement, making sure that the writing in the grant matches with NDRN's mission statement(i.e person first language and finally making sure the methods are feasible and make sense. There are many other important components to grant writing, however these are the four essential elements of a good grant. I appreciated the staff letting me sit in on the meetings as I have never done anything like this before. 

Overall this week was excellent, it was an awesome introduction into the World of Work. I have never felt apart of an Organization as much as I am included in the organizational aspects of NDRN. It is very rare that you are treated as family when you are an intern, however NDRN is a definite exception to this rule. Eric, Cindy and Curt are amazing individuals who have contributed so much to the field and have absolutely no ego, they are welcoming, polite and very accomodating.  It is very rare that an Executive Deputy Director walks with an intern to show them the way to Union Station or gives them a train ticket to Batimore. After Week 3, I can honestly say that this summer is going to be amazing, I am proud to be selected for this internship by the awesome folks at AAPD(Another inadvertent shout tout to Ms. Dana Fink), I am thrilled to be living in the Nations Capital  and I am pretty darn proud to be an NDRN intern. 

Next week I have a few meetings with Senate staff, a taskforce meeting, meeting at the Easter Seals  bdgs , FDR memorial, AAPD social event and.... Careers in the federal government event. AAPD and NDRN are tag teaming to make it a busy week for me, you can call me sick, but I love it!


Sonkulp Mehta- As many of the readers of this blog know, my brother is a Veteran, who completed his tour of duty in Afganistan in the Fall of 2005. Shortly afterwards he enrolled in Illnois State University pursuing an undergraduate degree in Acturial Science. Actuary is one of the most difficult sciences as there are only 15,000 Actuarys in the country. In order to be a full fledged Actuary you have to pass 7(seven) really difficult exams. Many folks give up after the first exam, however I have learned this past week that my brother has passed Exam #4 on his first try! Serving this country and than being a force to be reckoned with in the field of Insurance. Now that is my Bro! In addition He is always very encouraging and makes sure that I am independent. Few weeks ago I had problems with my shaver and he offered to send me a electronic razor!  There are many thank yous I can give to him(i.e Thank you for serving this country, Thank you for snoring in your sleep, so my talking in my sleep is insignificant and thank you for always being there for me! Oh and thank you for not rubbing in that the Sox are in first place and for those wondering the White Sox are not going to get a shoutout!, this kid is Cubbie blue for life even if they are completely useless before September. . Congrats Sonkulp  I am proud to call you my Brother, a true American hero!

My Dad- Happy Father's day Dad!

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