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Trial by Fire: Rising Phoenix

August 8, 2017

By Katie Giles

young woman smile at camera

Katie Giles

Recently, I presented to the Education Practice team at the World Bank. I was asked to share my story as a part of an initiative within the Bank to see the people impacted by disability-inclusive education–not only the numbers and statistics.

I was thrilled to take part in such a nice event. I prepared my presentation well in advance. I practiced and revised and practiced and revised some more. I discussed my presentation content with colleagues and mentors within my network. Yet nothing could prepare me for what I would walk into on presentation day. As one of my closest mentors has said to me, “Sometimes, you have to learn through trial by fire”.

I’m happy to report that I went to trial by fire, and I came out a phoenix. On presentation morning, I found myself waking up quite nervous. I arrived at my presentation early, and my sign language interpreters and I rehearsed it before the start of the session. Everything was settled. Then the room began to fill up, and fill up, and fill up. Before I knew it, we had a packed house. I was shocked, I had thought this would be a smaller event based on the RSVPs!

Nonetheless my presentation was underway. I began to delve into my experiences with inclusive education a deaf student, and my audience appeared to be captivated. My audience was filled with brilliant minds from teachers to Task Team Leaders and even Senior Managers. One person tuned in online all the way from Guinea! It was a very humbling experience.

After I finished, the floor opened for questions. The questions led us to go 30 minutes past our scheduled time frame—I was really impressed and thrilled with the questions asked. I loved the concept of looking past the statistics to the real people who are impacted by inclusive education, but I was worried that sharing my story would leave people with a set vision of what inclusive education looks like. I tried to interweave into my presentation the idea that there is no standard cookbook for inclusion. It is like a grandmother’s recipe—a pinch of this and a pinch of that—but not an exact measurement. The questions I was asked clearly showed that the audience had received the message I intended and was moving along to apply it to their own work.

The entire experience was nerve wracking. I had to make myself vulnerable at a fragile stage in my professional career by sharing very personal stories. I also as a lowly intern was presenting to and advising professionals whom I very much look up to. I’m so grateful to the World Bank and to USICD to putting this internship in place and setting the platform that granted me such an incredible opportunity.

Katie Giles is a member of the 2017 cohort of the 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 and other topics, to be posted at this blog during the summer.  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.  The internship program was enabled by funding support from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF). Katie Giles is completing her internship at the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience (GP SURR) Global Practice at the World Bank.  Read the biographies of our interns in the summer 2017 program.  Or read blog posts by other current and past interns. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD, MEAF, or GP SURR or World Bank.


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