Optimistic for Future Opportunities
By Vivian Fridas
This summer, I have returned to Washington DC to act as an intern at USICD’s office as well as the mentor for the interns in USICD’s Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs program. As an alumni of this internship program from two years, I am happy to be back and have another great experience.
Coming back, I did have a few concerns. First, I wondered if I could be and effective mentor for the new group of interns. After all, I was returning as just an intern. I was not coming back as an alumni with a full-time job. I was a little nervous the new group of cohorts would take one look at me and immediately conclude that I was not a success and had nothing of value to offer. Within a few minutes of spending time with the three ladies, I knew that they were not thinking anything of the sort and really thought my experience could be useful. Second, I feared that this opportunity would be another internship in a long list that would not lead to anything permanent. It feels like I am doomed to play the role of the eternal intern. It is very easy to get discouraged with the job hunting process. I have learned that seizing opportunities and taking full advantage of what they have to offer can lead to other paths and possibilities. This summer, I plan on leading by example and using every resource at my disposal in order to achieve my ultimate goal of attaining employment.
This leads me into my next concern. As individuals with disabilities, we all know that it is harder to find and attain steady employment. There are extra barriers and obstacles we have to overcome. These hurdles may differ with each disability, but they nevertheless impact our efforts. Something that became increasingly apparent during our orientation week deals with how effective employers are at hiring people with disabilities. This is not to say that there is not great enthusiasm on the part of an employer to hire more diverse staff that include people with disabilities, but it seems as though many do not know how to achieve this goal. Furthermore, there may be a big outreach effort on the part of the organization, but when it comes to applying for a position a person with a disability may find that the organization’s website is not accessible. This is a problem. How can we bridge this gap? How can we bring employers seeking to hire qualified candidates together with people with disabilities who meet the required qualifications and are interested in employment?
Programs like USICD’s Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program are excellent examples of promoting the hiring of young people with disabilities in international development. This program is highly selective and our candidates have extraordinary backgrounds and experience. By matching them with an organization similar to their passion and interests, a great relationship can begin with positive outcomes. This will leave the organization a desire to reach out and hire more people with disabilities in the future. I think it is our responsibility as advocates to continue educating the public about people with disabilities. I also feel that more needs to be done in order to ensure people with disabilities get a fair shot in all aspects of life. More opportunities for employment of people with disabilities can be a great start to bridging the inequality gap. I hope that I will get the chance to take on projects relating to disability rights and inclusion both domestically and internationally.
Vivian Fridas is one of the participants in the 2016 USICD Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program. She and other USICD program interns are writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with USICD’s internship program, to be posted at this blog. USICD coordinates the internship program, which brings a cohort of students and recent graduates with disabilities to Washington, DC, each summer to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area. Vivian Fridas is completing her internship at USICD. Learn more about the internship program at http://usicd.org/template/page.cfm?id=257. Read Vivian Fridas, and the biographies of other interns in the summer 2016 program. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD.