- Steven Bassett: Institute for Human Centered Design
- Adam Beach, NASA
- Steven Braunstein
- Anita Carse
- Allison Chisenhall
- Ifeanyi Paschal Ezenwa
- Afomeya Mekonnen
- Anne Ng
- Paul Trevino
- Marcus Tuck
- Frankie Walls
- Daman Wandke
- Tiffany Watkins
- Aileen Wu
- LeAndre Yarrell
- Taylor Yukawa
Steven Bassett: Institute for Human Centered Design
Steven Bassett graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s College of Architecture and Planning in May of 2011 with an Environmental Design degree. His cumulative GPA was an outstanding 3.865. Steven credits the University for providing students with a holistic approach to accommodations and disability support services, career counseling, and minority outreach. In addition to his studies, Steven loved working with computers and other technologies as a Desktop Support Technician at the University. In this role, he provided support to the faculty, students and staff with technical problems. Steven was also an active volunteer and developed the capacity to analyze complex urban problems as an apprentice and volunteer with the GO Boulder Transit Planning. He assisted with outreach and awareness about alternative transportation options available to the community and on other auxiliary projects to assist the city. Steven also provided over 200 volunteer hours to the Boulder County Aids Project’s HIV Prevention.
Steven’s long term goal is to receive his Master’s degree in urban planning. In the meantime, he wanted to acquire more real life work experience in the field of architecture or information technology that would provide an opportunity for growth and learning. The Workforce Recruitment Program provided him with the best of both worlds by assisting him in finding this experience at the Institute for Human Centered Design (IHCD) in Boston where he was hired as the new Accessible Technology Specialist and Social Media Coordinator. Steven has worked on numerous projects at the Center and has enjoyed working with an ambitious and talented staff to find new ways in which technology and its applications can be best tailored to fit everyone’s abilities. He is equally driven and passionate about how smart design, planning and technologies can be applied for creating better lives for people. Steven also serves as the Social Media Coordinator for public outreach, e-learning and website design and provides direct focus on the New England ADA Center and the IHCD. When he’s not at work you may find him running, practicing yoga, visiting art museums or reading on his iPad.
Adam Beach, NASA
Early in life, Adam decided that he wanted to work in the aerospace field to design and build satellites and he never lost sight of that goal.
Adam attended college to earn a degree in Electrical Engineering and became successful by making school work his priority. Working extremely hard in his classes, spending countless hours studying, and focusing on mathematics and equations proved to be effective strategies.
Adam knew he needed a practical, real-world internship in order to land a real-world job in the aerospace industry, so he interviewed for the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP), as well as sending out resumes to the NASA centers and the big aerospace companies. Adam was thrilled when NASA Headquarters offered him a summer internship working on spacecraft communication systems in the Office of the Chief Engineer in Washington, DC. This outstanding opportunity provided him with valuable industry experience working on current and future communication systems standards. Adam also supported several outreach events, including NASA’s 50th Anniversary during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. and NASA’s Day on Capitol Hill.
Following Adam’s internship with NASA Headquarters, he spent two co-op tours with NASA Goddard working in the Power Systems Branch designing Dc-Dc power converters and spacecraft magnetics. In this role, he designed a power transformer for the Express Logistics Carrier, which is now attached to the International Space Station. He also worked on a discontinuous flyback converter for the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite (FASTAT).
His experiences at NASA, coupled with a solid education, helped launch Adam into a full-time career with the Orbital Science Corporation. Currently, he is a Spacecraft Power Systems Design Engineer at Orbital. As a young engineer, Adam is quick to recognize this rewarding career, and he is thankful for the encouragement and support offered by WRP.
Steven Braunstein believes that his greatest accomplishment was “being a great soldier.”
A dedicated member of the Army, Steven advanced to Staff Sergeant in four years and took on the ultimate challenge of leading a team of soldiers in Iraq during Operation Freedom I and III. He received numerous awards including the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Following a ten year military career, Steven enrolled at Baruch College to finish a degree in Accounting on the GI Bill.
Finding a new career after the Army was challenging, but Steven had educational and military experiences that he knew would be a benefit to anyone who hired him. A Veterans’ Counselor at Baruch College encouraged Steven to participate in the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). In the interview, Steven conveyed his interest in an accounting position where he could utilize the excellent analytical and technical skills he acquired while attending college and serving in the Army.
Steven’s participation in the Workforce Recruitment Program connected him with businesses looking for qualified personnel. The opportunity to be considered for his skills and talents ultimately brought him to his current position as an Accountant at the Environmental Protection Agency in New York City. Steven is now a new father, and deeply enjoys his work at the EPA. Steven states that it is a pleasure to come into the office every day, and he looks forward to new challenges and a variety of tasks.
Because of WRP, the EPA has found an employee is positive and credits maturity and perspective as essential factors in his success, while Steven is, once again serving his country as part of the team.
Although Anita Carse had an undergraduate degree, several summer internships, and a few years of work experience, she knew that obtaining a Masters’ degree in Human Resource Management would be necessary to secure the high caliber job she was looking for in a new career. With a tough economy and competitive job market, job hunting in the Bay area would be challenging after graduation. Anita was armed with an advanced degree and plenty of encouragement and motivation to land an ideal position in human resources. Through an improbable source, Anita was contacted in the Fall of 2011by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – San Francisco District. A member of the EEO staff called inquiring if she was interested in becoming a permanent District employee. Without thinking twice Anita said, Yes! Luckily, a former internship supervisor and Chief of Safety and Occupational Health had remembered Anita from when she was working as an Office Automation Clerk in the Summer of 2009 through a Workforce Recruitment Program internship. The Chief was very impressed with Anita’s work ethic, passion and ability to immerse herself as part of the team. He had given Anita an excellent performance review and strongly recommended her for a permanent Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist position at the agency. Anita credits her summer internship and the opportunity to showcase her knowledge, skills and abilities; making good impressions and networking as key advantages for starting a career in the Federal Government. Navigating the federal hiring process can be daunting for a student or new graduate, she states.
Anita is certainly enjoying her new position and has developed an outreach and recruitment plan to enhance workforce diversity, as well as ensure that people with disabilities have equal federal employment opportunities within the District. Looking back, Anita believes that she was very fortunate to be a WRP participant and have a boss who believed in the program. As an EEO Specialist, Anita is helping to break down attitudinal barriers and demonstrating that people with disabilities can work successfully in a variety of jobs. As a person with a non-visible disability, she has the ability to work and perform the essential functions of her job with leadership support and reasonable accommodation.
WRP EXPERIENCE ENABLES SELF-IDENTIFICATION AND A NEW CAREER PATH
- Student: Allison Chisenhall
- School: Johns Hopkins University
- Major: Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
- Graduation Year: Spring 2015
- Employer: BAE Systems, Inc.
The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) sources current and recent graduates with disabilities through partnerships with more than 300 colleges and universities across the nation. Each student who applies is interviewed and assessed by a trained recruiter and then entered into a database if rated highly enough for the program. The 2015-2016 database includes more than 3,800 highly qualified candidates seeking both internships and permanent positions in a range of fields.
One proud participant in the WRP is the Johns Hopkins University—a private institution with a total undergraduate enrollment of 6,469 students. The University’s Office of Student Disability Services provides WRP information to the students they serve.
In 2015, Allison ”Ally” Chisenhall was a senior at Johns Hopkins University. The Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major had served as a student Laboratory Research Assistant for three years. When she received an announcement about the WRP from the Office of Student Disability Services in the fall of 2014, she decided to apply. She saw it as a unique opportunity since it was the only program she had encountered that offered internship possibilities specifically to students with disabilities. While Ally had secured the accommodations she needed for academic success, she was unsure of when to identify as a person with a disability in other situations. The WRP provided her first opportunity to self-identify as a job seeker with a disability.
Ally received several internship offers through the WRP, and ultimately decided to take an internship with the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in their Mammary Stem Cell Biology Lab. She also accepted an invitation to become part of the US Business Leadership Network’s (USBLN) Career Link Mentoring Program (CLMP), which matched her with a mentor from the Air Products & Chemical Company.
As a result of her summer research experience at NIH, Ally came to some important conclusions about her future career. She realized that she did not want to pursue a research career in biomedicine, and thanks to discussions with her mentor, she learned that she could switch from the bio-engineering career track to one in process engineering. As a result, she applied for and received a process engineer position with the McCormick Corporation.
Prior to securing this first full-time position, Ally had applied to participate in the USBLN’s pre-conference career preparation training and the USBLN 2015 Annual Conference in Austin, Texas. During the course of the five days in Austin, she started building her network with company representatives. Ally also learned there was a community of individuals with a variety of disabilities, and her comfort level as a person with a disability grew. As a direct result of her newly found community, she learned of an open position at BAE Systems and reconnected with Jason Bryn, Disability Compliance and Inclusion Programs Manager in BAE System’s Workforce Analytics and Compliance division. Ally and Jason had met at the USBLN Conference. During the spring of 2016, Ally started her new chemical engineer position as a BAE Systems employee.
Thanks in large part to the WRP, the CLMP mentoring experience and other connecting activities in which Ally participated, she is bringing her whole self to work as a proud new BAE Systems employee. She is engaged in company activities, such as BAE System’s newly launched disability employee resource group, which will enhance opportunities for her employer to attract top talent who also happen to have disabilities. Ally’s story is a true win-win—both for her and BAE Systems.
“Attending USBLN’s national conference and participating in USBLN’s Career Link Mentor Program as a corporate disability partner has connected our company with high potential WRP talent like Ally and has positioned BAE Systems as an employer of choice for candidates with disabilities,” says Jason Bryn, who was hired in Summer 2015 to lead the company’s integrated compliance and inclusion disability programs.
The US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the US Department of Defense manage the WRP program for federal agencies, while private sector employers can connect with great job candidates—like Allison Chisenhall—through the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN). This year marks the program’s 20th anniversary; since 1995, more than 7,000 students and recent graduates have received temporary and permanent employment opportunities through the WRP.
Ifeanyi Paschal Ezenwa
Ifeanyi Paschal Ezenwa came to the United States from southeastern Nigeria to study software engineering at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Living in this country for quite a few years, he has really enjoyed experiencing American culture, so much so that he decided to become a U.S. citizen. Meeting diverse people and supporting his new community is very important to Ifeanyi. Consequently, he has been active in sharing his information technology skills with others by volunteering at Peoples Oakland, an agency providing rehabilitation services for adults with drug, alcohol, mental and intellectual disabilities, in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Ifeanyi worked in the IT department where he was instrumental in developing the organization’s website and establishing a social media presence. One of his favorite activities included teaching computer classes for clients of the organization. Teaching and training others has helped his focus and patience for developing lesson plans according to the needs of the individual; designing general curriculum; and facilitating classroom instruction.
Making a difference is rewarding to Ifeanyi, and he is grateful for the opportunities that have been provided to him. This includes both his educational and program participation in the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). Here he has realized the value in workplace experience through knowledge transfer and the opportunity to have others assist him in finding out about potential companies and obtaining career insights. To gain more familiarity within the field of information technology, Ifeanyi participated in the Career Link Mentoring Program and was matched with a software engineer from Comcast Cable. Mentoring provided Ifeanyi the chance to meet with professionals who could help guide him in the IT field and serve as role models to find out what he needs to do to be successful while gaining networking connections.
In addition to his volunteer work and mentoring experience, Ifeanyi had the opportunity to work for Mellon Financial Corporation as a Human Resources intern providing administrative support on database management, online background checks, and development of digital publications. Capitalizing on internships, the WRP, and mentoring programs, Ifeanyi has increased his self-confidence, enhanced his communication skills, and learned some of the nuances of the workplace. After graduation, Ifeanyi started his job search with the goal of finding an entry-level software engineer position. Through connections from the WRP and Career Link, Ifeanyi had the good fortune to be invited to the Computer Science Corporation (CSC) GBS Graduate Program and participate in a management training program that lead him to an Associate Professional Application Delivery Specialist position in Schaumburg, Illinois. When asked what he likes most about his new position, Ifeanyi stated, learning new programs that compliment his degree, meeting other computer professionals, growing on the job and understanding workplace expectations. Ifeanyi is enjoying living in the Chicago area, meeting new people, and playing basketball and volleyball. He also loves to watch action movies and television along with listening to music and dancing to anything.
WRP CREATES A PATH TO A DREAM FIRST JOB
- Student: Afomeya Mekonnen
- School: Gallaudet University
- Major: Biology
- Graduation Year: May 2016
- Employer: CVS Health
In 2016, Afomeya Mekonnen was in her last year at Gallaudet University as a biology major and a certified pharmacy technician with a dream to become a pharmacist. As a person who is deaf, Afomeya communicates well using American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and oral methods. But during several college internships, she encountered supervisors and co-workers who discouraged her from becoming a pharmacist since they could not believe that she would be able to communicate effectively with customers.
When Afomeya decided to interview for the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP), multiple doors started to open. She was recruited for the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN) Career Link Mentoring Program through which she was matched with a mentor from a major pharmaceutical company. Through weekly Skype meetings with her mentor, Afomeya refined her resume, practiced job interviewing skills, learned how to productively do online job searches and planned the best path to reach her ultimate goal of becoming a pharmacist. But most of all, she received encouragement and confidence.
Through the WRP, Afomeya received an interview with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The interview went well and the interviewer provided excellent information on career building. EPA offered Afomeya a summer internship, but since she was graduating from college in May, she decided to apply for the USBLN Rising Leadership Academy (RLA) instead. It was at the RLA that Afomeya was interviewed by representatives from CVS Health and offered a Pharmacy Tech position in Washington, D.C. In October 2016, at the age of 24, Afomeya started her first job.
Afomeya states that she loves her job and her customers, and is passionate about her work. She successfully performs all the Pharm Tech job functions, including those for drop off, production and pick-up. Her co-workers are naturally supportive of each other and understand and appreciate her communication methods. They simply speak a little more slowly when talking to her to make sure she can understand them.
She is continuing her journey toward her ultimate career goal – becoming a pharmacist. She applied to pharmacy schools and was accepted to one in California, but decided that she was not ready to move that far away from her family in the D.C. area. She is looking at pursuing a Master’s degree in Pharmacy and Toxicology while continuing to work at CVS Health.
Afomeya would like to share her journey with other young people with disabilities. She urges them to apply for programs and jobs that they want and not to be deterred by other people’s low expectations or unconscious biases. Her advice to employers is to approach job applicants with disabilities as all the employers at the Rising Leadership Academy, including CVS Health, did – they saw beyond stigma and focused on talent and not on disability.
According to David Casey, Vice President of Diversity for CVS Health, “CVS Health is committed to creating and sustaining a fully inclusive workplace culture that minimizes the ‘dis’ in disability by educating, equipping and empowering our colleagues with information and resources. Afomeya Mekonnen was given an employment opportunity with CVS Health and with her hard work and determination she soared.”
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Department of Defense manage the WRP program for federal agencies, while private sector employers can connect with great job candidates—like Afomeya Mekonnen—through the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN).
WRP LAUNCHES A DISABLED VETERAN’S CAREER PATH
- Student: Paul Trevino
- School: California State University Channel Islands
- Major: Communications
- Graduation Year: 2017
- Employer: The Walt Disney Company
The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) sources current and recent graduates with disabilities through partnerships with more than 330 colleges and universities across the nation. Each student who applies is interviewed and assessed by a trained recruiter and then entered into a database if rated highly enough for the program. The 2017-2018 WRP.jobs database includes more than 2,000 highly qualified candidates seeking both internships and permanent positions in a range of fields.
When Paul Trevino graduated from high school he was not ready to apply to college, so he enlisted in the Air Force and served honorably for 3 years. Following discharge, Paul returned to Southern California, started taking college classes part time and was hired as a case worker for Ventura County. He managed this packed schedule while also managing emotional and physical disabilities. A chance meeting with a Veteran Service Officer at a community event accelerated his education and career goals. He applied for and was approved for veteran disability benefits and became a full-time student at California State University Channel Islands where he majored in communications and graduated in 2017.
Since Paul was now connected with veteran services, he received information on many opportunities including the federal Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). Paul was accepted into the WRP and through that list was invited to apply for the USBLN Rising Leaders Mentoring Program (RLMP). Paul’s RLMP mentor was Ron Pettit, who is the Director for Disability Inclusion and ADA Compliance in Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Access Department. Paul shared that Ron’s guidance in helping him craft his resume and become comfortable with his disabilities and negotiating workplace accommodations was extremely important in preparing for his job search. In fact, his job search was so successful that he secured his dream job even before completing the mentoring program and graduating from college.
Paul’s hobby since 2005 was pyrotechnics, and he secured his pyrotechnics license in 2009. Since Disney has spectacular fireworks, his dream was to work for them. While in his last year of college, he subscribed to the job site Indeed, and when a job in Disney’s pyrotechnics department was posted, he applied for it and was hired. Paul praised Disney for being very accommodating and flexible in working with his schedule so that he could finish his degree.
Now that he is in his job, Paul looks forward to a long career and advancing to management positions with Disney Parks & Resorts. Paul’s advice to students with disabilities is to apply for the WRP, the Rising Leaders Mentoring Program and the Rising Leadership Academy. He believes these programs enable college students and student veterans with disabilities to become part of a group that is a great source for networking and launching a spectacular career path.
According to Paul’s mentor Ron Pettit, Director for Disability Inclusion and ADA Compliance for Royal Caribbean Cruises, “I am so thrilled to be part of the Rising Leaders Mentoring Program and was excited to hear Paul realized his dream job at Disney Parks & Resorts. As a person with a disability, I see tremendous value in helping college students with disabilities with their personal and professional development and achieving their goals.”
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Defense manage the WRP program for federal agencies, while private sector employers can connect with great job candidates—like Paul Trevino—through the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN). This year marks the program’s 23nd anniversary; since 1995, more than 7,000 students and recent graduates have received temporary and permanent employment opportunities through the WRP.
Marcus participated in the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) all four years of college while earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems and Operation Management from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. During college, Marcus was actively involved with a professional business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi, where he served as Vice President of Professional Development. In this role, he was responsible for the coordination of professional programs and seminars. This also provided him the opportunity to allocate funding and manage project budgets.
As a Computer Technology Intern, through a Summer WRP Federal Internship at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Marcus evaluated and improved company website graphics to maximize accessibility, adhered to 508 compliance regulations, and improved usability of software. He also gained knowledge about the software procurement process including communicating with vendors and evaluating software.
During the Career Link Mentoring Program, Marcus had the opportunity to expand his career exploration, hone his interpersonal skills and advance his networking strategies. Working with a mentor from Lowe’s, Marcus had the opportunity to learn more about the process of supply chain and distribution and interact with Lowe’s engineers and analysts that support 40 distribution facilities leading process improvement projects, maintaining work standards, designing and setting up new/repurposed distribution facilities, and maintaining all distribution information systems.
Visiting the corporate offices, Marcus met with several different departments and learned more about the potential positions at the company. He also had exposure to the workplace culture, which he immediately embraced since employees were helpful, kind and treated him like family. Although Marcus was currently working as a Help Desk Analyst at a hospital on the evening shift, he was looking for another career opportunity with a distinct career path. Marcus was well liked at Lowe’s and several managers acknowledged his great skills and recognized he could be a leader in the organization. After a year and a targeted job search, Marcus was asked to interview and was selected for an Operations Coach position at Lowe’s, working on logistics, supply chain management, and efficient product distribution. Reflecting on this hire, Lowe’s conveyed that they “hired Marcus primarily due to his attitude and people skills. We were able to put our fears aside when we hired Marcus. Fear of lack of support from the company, fear of putting him in an industrial setting, fear of the unknown. Many people helped us overcome this fear. Lowe’s very publicly supports disability hiring. We can train on our systems, but it’s much harder to teach someone to be dedicated to themselves and others. It’s hard to find committed leaders that can see the bigger picture. Marcus’ life and work experience has given him very valuable perspective”.
A typical day for Marcus includes managing 19 employees to maximize productivity within four or five different functions. This includes balancing staff and rotating employees to facilitate understanding of all aspects of operations, while also managing key performance areas to assess product inventory and database management.
With Marcus’ passion for advocacy, leadership and professionalism, he has been asked to be featured in a Lowe’s diversity commercial along with additional public speaking engagements to promote disability and employment issues. The Lowe’s company values Marcus’ abilities and how he illustrates a great symbol of what is possible and why more companies should recruit candidates with disabilities. This is evident in the employees with disabilities that came before Marcus, who have taught Lowe’s about the value they bring to the workplace. Lowe’s explained that: “Marcus himself has been open, honest, responsible, and reassuring and has taken the same degree of responsibility for his own success as any other leader we have ever hired. As a matter of fact, he has chosen a higher level of personal accountability than many.” The executive leadership believes that Marcus helps Lowe’s display the corporate commitment to diversity and foster a message of openness to diversity on all levels, both visible and non-visible.
For Marcus, he believes that the WRP provided him with key internship and mentoring experiences, self-confidence, and the support for being more successful in his career transition.
Frankie Walls had dreams of self-sufficiency and economic independence. Though he had these goals for himself, his ideas about his disability had been clouded by a lack of opportunity causing him to lose his sense of self-worth and believe that his career goals were unachievable.
In 2009, Frankie viewed a YouTube video featuring Nick Vujicic that allowed him to see he was limited by nothing, except himself. Shortly after internalizing the themes of this presentation, Frankie decided to go back to school and obtain an MBA. After graduation, he applied for job after job to no avail. He realized he would need to strategically position himself for opportunity and take advantage of every resource. Frankie, then, decided to participate in the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) and found it to be truly a light at the end of the tunnel. Through WRP, Frankie received encouragement, coaching and mentoring activities, and access to entry-level professional positions.
Frankie became more optimistic about his future and his career, which resulted in an opportunity to intern Miami Air International in Miami, Florida. Out of the job market for over four years with a new MBA, the internship provided Frankie with advanced training and additional work experience. Frankie revealed that the WRP gave back his drive by reintegrating him into the workforce where he gained critical business knowledge and further developed himself as a professional.
From the onset, Frankie attained an exceptional experience at Miami Air by being accepted and treated as a regular employee and not just an intern. Both his supervisor Dustin and department director Armando always made him an integral part of the team and gave due recognition for his work ethic. Frankie’s disability was neither a limitation nor a focus by his supervisors or any of the employees. The work culture was one of inclusiveness, where his ideas and contributions were welcomed and his assistive technology requests provided without question. He was also given an opportunity to learn about the airline industry in depth, beyond anything he could have imagined. Frankie attended weekly meetings in which each department shared what they did and how that fit within the global perspective of the company’s objectives. By integrating his academic skills with their business system, he assisted in the facilitation of a Content Management System. This placed Miami Air among the first five airlines to acquire their FAA 121 Certification. Frankie is thankful for his internship experience through WRP and is currently receiving calls and is networking to launch a new career.
At the local, state and national levels, Daman Wandke could be a spokesman for a variety of programs, representing disability advocacy, especially in the areas of employment, universal design and web accessibility. Starting his self-advocacy at a young age, with the encouragement and support of his family, Daman recognized the significant need for disability awareness and how to advocate for equal access and opportunities at school resulting in the addition of seven automatic doors at his high school and more independence for all students with disabilities.
While attending Western Washington University, he initiated the first disability awareness club on campus, Students for Disability Awareness (SDA). Serving as president for three years, Daman coordinated annual Disability Awareness Weeks, advocated for numerous improvements on campus, and placed disability on the diversity map by creating the Disability Outreach Center (DOC). Focused on disability advocacy, this student run Center has established a meeting space for students with and without disabilities to talk about disability issues and continues to host the annual Disability Awareness Week. In addition to campus activities, Daman served on the Washington State Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment addressing disability employment and other youth initiatives. He was also appointed as a member of the National Council on Disability Youth Advisory Committee and later chaired the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN) Student Advisory Council, working with corporations and universities to advance employment for students with disabilities. Currently, Daman is working with other WRP students and graduates in the Career Link Mentoring program to promote disability inclusion. He is a firm believer of driving your own career by being well rounded and gaining as much work experience as possible to showcase unique perspectives and skills. Achieving success on his own terms, Daman has emulated this throughout his undergraduate and graduate career while working on web accessibility at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Housing Finance Agency (HFA), where he coordinated agency-wide web accessibility efforts. Additional internships included the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Liberty Mutual.
With an MBA and a degree in Management Information Systems and great work and leadership experience, Daman is enjoying his User Interface Analyst position at SSB BART Group testing client’s websites, software, and hardware for accessibility. In this consultative role, he is working with a variety of clients, scoping, testing and analyzing their technology. Mary Jean Smith, Vice President of Public Sector, acknowledges that SSB Bart has found that Daman and other technical staff with disabilities offer new problem solving potential that contributes to the company’s growth. She embraces an open and accepting environment where Daman can be extremely comfortable and successful in the workplace and this included his insight on physical accessibility improvements for the new offices of SSB Bart Group.
The WRP program has provided Daman with networking and mentoring opportunities to increase his workplace knowledge and employment options. Having a strong network is a key to Daman’s success and he believes it is important for other young professionals with disabilities to have high expectations and think about the goals they want to reach with a “can do” attitude. Daman has a large network of national contacts and shares his wisdom of “it’s more about who you know and not just what you know.” Leadership and advocacy are extremely important and open many doors to opportunities. Daman’s advice to other WRP students and graduates is to find ways to get involved, take risks, and seek out new opportunities while never forgetting Justin Dart’s mantra, to “Lead On.”
Tiffany Watkins was a student at Temple University who graduated in the Fall of 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts. Prior to attending college, Tiffany acquired several years of work experience in accounting, collections, customer service, and human resources. When she was contacted about a summer internship opportunity at Prudential through the Workforce Recruitment Program,
Tiffany knew that this was too good of an opportunity to pass up and it could be a positive step in her education and career growth. Living in Philadelphia, PA and commuting to Newark, NJ, she was certainly willing to be creative and make this internship a reality. Tiffany was excited to work in diversity outreach as a Human Resource Staffing Intern and she was prepared to make some sacrifices. Tiffany rode the train two hours each way from Philly to Newark four days a week and telecommuted one day a week.
Her job duties included researching market trends as it related to diversity initiatives and identifying diverse community organizations. Tiffany also helped create marketing materials for career fairs and recruitment events. This included participation in the Grand Slam Event for minority outreach to a variety of communities including African American, Hispanic/Latino, LBGT, and Veterans. Tiffany also worked with vendors, attended career fairs, and other campus and community recruitment events. She enjoyed working with hiring managers and other human resource staff in sourcing applicant flow data from external strategic partners and recording results.
Tiffany was able to gain knowledge in the various areas of minority outreach by working with a variety of departments at Prudential and participating in business resource group meetings. She was an active member of ADAPT (Abled and Disabled Associates Partnering Together) and had the opportunity to work with an incredible mentor that was extremely helpful and involved her in numerous activities, including teleconferences, in-person meetings, networking luncheons and social events to gain a better understanding of the people and processes at Prudential.
WRP CREATES THE BRIDGE FOR A COMBAT INJURED VETERAN’S UPWARDLY MOBILE CAREER
- Student: LeAndre Yarrell
- School: Wilmington University
- Major: Computer & Network Security
- Graduation Year: 2016
- Employer: Northrop Grumman Corporation
LeAndre Yarrell retired as a United States Army Sergeant who served in Afghanistan. Following his military service, he entered Wilmington University in New Castle, DE. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer & Network Security in February 2016, and is a member of Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society. While at Wilmington University, LeAndre learned about the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) program from the university’s Office of Disability Services. He applied, interviewed and enrolled in the WRP database. Since LeAndre had an internship that was converted to a contracting position, he did not accept the summer jobs he was offered through the WRP, including one with the Department of Navy.
LeAndre did accept the offer of being a mentee in U.S. Business Leadership Network’s (USBLN) 2015 Rising Leaders Mentoring Program (RLMP). The RLMP is a six-month career mentoring opportunity for college students and recent graduates with disabilities through linkages to business professionals from USBLN partner companies. His mentor was Dan Ellerman, a director with Northrop Grumman Corporation. As a result of his active participation in the Rising Leaders Mentoring Program and a strong recommendation from his mentor, LeAndre was accepted as a participant in the USBLN’s Rising Leadership Academy.
Through Dan Ellerman’s mentoring and the Academy training sessions, which encouraged him to embrace his disability, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), LeAndre maximized the networking and interviewing opportunities during the Academy and immediately following the conference. When LeAndre graduated from college, he accepted a position as a Security Analyst with Incyte, where he served as the firewall administrator, among other roles, and was responsible for the development and implementation of security policies, standards and procedures to ensure the protection of corporate data against unauthorized users, access, modification or destruction.
LeAndre’s career plan is based on setting goals and acquiring the professional skills, experience and accomplishments that will lead him to the C-Suite level. During his nearly two successful years with his first employer, LeAndre grew his professional network and kept in touch with his first mentor, Dan Ellerman. In May 2017, LeAndre accepted an outstanding job offer from Northrop Grumman Corporation and moved to the Washington, D.C. area. LeAndre is well on his way to achieving his career goal.
LeAndre also has life goals that include community service. One of his special interests is to raise awareness of PTSD and securing benefits for veterans. He is also committed to helping youth in low income areas through coaching basketball and helping with food and clothing drives. His ultimate vision is to open a center where youth can come to play basketball, receive a hot meal and be safe.
Dan Ellerman shared the following about his experience as LeAndre’s mentor.
After our first meeting, I knew LeAndre was an exceptional individual with talents and skills any employer would value. Most of our time together in the RLMP was spent getting him to understand how valuable he was to organizations; how to position himself to showcase his talent; and talk through the job offers once they started coming in. I think LeAndre was shocked when he had choices from a number of companies, including mine, prior to graduating. It’s been a career high for me to watch LeAndre grow, build confidence and succeed in his chosen field. I can’t wait to see the impact and legacy he will leave behind.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Department of Defense manage the WRP program for federal agencies, while private sector employers can connect with great job candidates—like LeAndre Yarrell—through the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN).
WRP OPENS DOORS TO CAREER WITH INTERNATIONAL COMPANY
- Student: Taylor Yukawa
- School: Rochester Institute of Technology
- Major: Finance
- Graduation Year: Fall 2014
- Career Link Mentor: Marthalee Galeota, Manager, EO Initiatives, Law & Corporate Affairs, Starbucks Coffee Company
The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) sources current students and recent graduates with disabilities through partnerships with more than 300 colleges and universities across the nation. Each student who applies is interviewed and assessed by a trained recruiter and then entered into a database if rated highly enough for the program. Each year, the WRP database includes approximately 2,000 highly qualified candidates seeking both internships and permanent positions in a range of fields.
The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology is the first and largest technological college in the world for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Through a range of career-focused programs, NTID graduates students with the strong technical skills highly sought in today’s economy. Over the years many of its students have participated in the WRP; in 2014, one was Taylor Yukawa.
That same year, Taylor also applied to participate in the U.S. Business Leadership Network’s Career Link Mentoring Program, which draws participants from the WRP, and was subsequently matched with a mentor, Marthalee Galeota, Manager, Equal Opportunity (EO) Initiatives in the Law & Corporate Affairs Department at Starbucks Coffee Company. Furthermore, Taylor applied for a three-month finance summer internship with Starbucks. His internship interview was conducted remotely, via Apple’s video call app FaceTime, and Starbucks provided a sign language interpreter to translate the conversation. Not surprisingly given his high rating in the WRP database, Starbucks offered Taylor the internship shortly after.
Once Taylor arrived at the Starbucks Headquarters in Seattle, WA, Marthalee scheduled opportunities for him to meet other Deaf employees so he could build up his internal network. Despite having grown up in Seattle, prior to joining the Starbucks team, Taylor never knew that the company had Deaf employees or an expressed commitment to disability inclusion throughout the company. Through his internal network, he learned of available employee resources such as sign language interpreters, real time captioning, devices for video interpreting, and the Starbucks Access Alliance—a coalition of Starbucks partners, or employees, who work to advance inclusion and accessibility at the company, from both the workplace and marketplace perspective.
During Taylor’s summer internship, he also learned about the company’s full-time, two-year, finance rotational program and applied for the opportunity. As a result of his successful internship, he was immediately placed into the program without the need for additional formal interviews. Taylor felt that the internship gave him an advantage over other candidates because it offered the opportunity to meet managers and other employees and learn about the company’s distinct workplace culture. While the rotational program formally started in July 2015, Taylor was brought into a full-time Financial Analyst Associate position in March since he had already completed his college classes. He transitioned to the rotational program in July, joining three other college hires.
Today, Taylor is active with the Starbucks Access Alliance and, as part of this, participated in creating an online employee learning module titled, “Creating a Deaf Friendly Environment.” He was also part of the education and awareness events for the ADA 25th anniversary celebration in July 2015.
Taylor’s story is one of success for not only a talented young professional with a disability, but also an employer committed to an inclusive culture welcoming of the skills and talents of all qualified individuals, including those with disabilities. Taylor took the initiative to seek internships and a career mentor. With the support he received, Taylor’s transition from college to work from went smoothly, and Starbucks gained a loyal and high potential employee.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Defense manage the WRP for federal agencies, while private sector employers can connect with WRP participants—like Taylor Yukawa—through the Employer Assistance and Resource Network for Disability Inclusion (EARN). This year marks the program’s 20th anniversary; since 1995, more than 7,000 college students and recent graduates have received temporary and permanent employment opportunities through the WRP.