The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is pleased to announce the Summer Internship Program Class of 2023.

Over 20 years ago, AAPD launched the Summer Internship Program to develop the next generation of leaders with disabilities. AAPD has placed college students, graduate students, law students, and recent graduates with all types of disabilities in paid summer internships with Congressional offices, federal agencies, nonprofit and for-profit organizations within the Washington, DC area. The AAPD Summer Internship Program advances participants’ career opportunities, deepens their leadership skills, and meaningfully connects them to the broader disability community.

The 2023 AAPD Summer Internship Program would not be possible without the generous support of our partners. Thank you to Aid Association for the Blind, District of Columbia, Arconic Foundation, Microsoft, and United Airlines for supporting our Summer Internship Program. Project N95’s Masks for Communities Coalition has generously donated N95 masks or equivalent for our AAPD summer interns, staff, and guest speakers.

In-person 2023 AAPD summer interns wearing business casual and posing for a group photo on George Washington University's campus

Meet the 2023 Class

Audrey Agbefe – National Black Justice Coalition
Headshot of Audrey Agbefe, a dark skin black girl with hair pulled up. She is wearing a tan button down shirt. Audrey Agbefe (she/her) is an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Audrey is a rising senior majoring in Criminology Law and Justice with a minor in Disability and Human Development. Audrey has always had a strong interest in helping people and promoting social justice. Understanding laws and policies will help her achieve her goal in working with underrepresented groups of people through the use of the legal system. This program will be her first chance to really explore the different paths of advocacy work. She plans on learning and hopefully applying her new skills to further promote social justice back home.
Christina Stafford – Center for American Progress, Disability Justice Initative

Headshot of Christina Stafford, a black girl, from shoulders up, with her hair in locs. She is wearing glasses and a white patterned top. Christina Stafford (she/her) is a sophomore at Elon University where she majors in English and Political Science and minors in Philosophy, with plans to pursue a degree in law. Her interest in both literature and politics originated in high school, where she discovered how writing could change the world. In high school, Christina was enthralled with creative writing, taking inspiration from Octavia Butler, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. After having her senior year shaped by the events of 2020, Christina became focused on a career that centered on advocacy and progress.

In college, Christina works to transform those goals into a reality, as she serves as the Civic Engagement Chair for the Elon NAACP college chapter. She also works as the Honors Fellows’ Director of Inclusion and Diversity, desiring to make a difference in every space she is in. Christina is currently conducting research on the media’s influence on U.S. perceptions of prison abolition, hoping to add to our understanding of this complex issue.

Jada Thompson – Office of Senator Tammy Duckworth

Headshot of Jada Thompson, a black person wearing a black dress with flowers.Jada Thompson (she/they) is a rising junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she will get her Certificate in Co-Operative Experience. They are passionate about disability rights, social justice, and social media. Growing up as an autistic black girl on the Southside of Chicago in a low-income neighborhood, she faced a lot of discrimination, ableism, and a lack of educational support. Her passion for change led them to work with Best Buddies International, where she is currently a Global Ambassador. In addition, to being a Global Ambassador, she serves on their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. Jada is very excited to bring her unique experience to the program.

Jessica Lopez – U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy
Headshot of Jessica Lopez, a young woman with long, straight brown hair and glasses wearing a white top and black suit jacket

Jessica Lopez (she/her) is a disability advocate and full-time student who is triple-majoring in Business, Economics, and Communications at Coastline College. Born without hands and feet, Jessica’s lived experience as a disabled student informs her advocacy for more inclusive and accessible education and workforces. In addition to her academic pursuits, she is a student leader who actively collaborates with college leadership, constituency committees, and work groups to develop student equity strategies.

As Vice President of Coastline Associated Student Government, Jessica authored and championed a disability inclusion resolution that has advanced to the state level. Partnering with multiple student body organizations across the state to adopt the resolution, her disability inclusion resolution advocates for increased disability cultural initiatives, equity and accessibility training, and institutional support for students with disabilities. Jessica formerly served as the Treasurer of Region VIII of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges (SSCCC), a non-profit student organization recognized by California law to represent 2 million students in state-level legislative advocacy. Through her work with the SSCCC, Jessica advocated for marginalized students in the education system and independently led student efforts to campaign for disability rights. She has also taken her passion for advocacy to the California state capitol, where she met with legislators to advocate for more accessible education.

Alongside her academic and advocacy work, Jessica is active in the corporate world, developing training modules on disability inclusion and consulting on accessibility and disability-inclusive DEI strategy. With experiences spanning social enterprises, B2B tech, nonprofits, and public institutions, Jessica works to interrupt the narratives we are often led to believe about people with disabilities in order to make the world more equitable.

JS Shokrian – Northwestern Law School's Center for Racial and Disability Justice
Headshot of Josephine Shokrian, a light skin brown person with chin length brown curly hair posing in front of a red and white background wearing a black and brown blazer with white camisole.

JS Shokrian (no pronouns) is an artist and learner committed to the intersectional proliferation of disability and its potential impact on political and social economies. San Francisco State University alum with an MFA in Photography from Milton Avery School of the Arts, Bard College, Shokrian is an inaugural fellow and artist at Beall Institute for Art and Technology with Leonardo/ISAST. Recent projects include constructing a talking book library of disability literature at Wendy’s Subway, New York, and scenic designing for the disability arts dance company Kinetic Light’s Wired.

Keisheona Wilkins – CareSource

Headshot of Keisheona, a woman with  light brown skin, hair braided back in two braids, wearing black framed glasses, and a navy blue and white horizontal stripe shirt.

Keisheona Wilkins (she/her) is a 2007 graduate from Highland Park High School in Topeka, KS. After graduating high school, she pursued a career in nursing and worked in the field for 10 years. In 2018 Keisheona was a survivor of gun violence and in result of that she became disabled and now depends on an electric wheelchair for mobility. Three years later Keisheona decided to reenter the workforce which led her to enroll in the Graphics Technology program at Washburn Institute of Technology. During her time as a student, Keisheona has been involved with organizations that support others in need and participated in different extracurricular activities such as the Washburn Business Pitch Competitions, which in 2022 she won 5th place out of 53 competing teams. As a result of her success, Keisheona was inducted as a member of the National Technical Honor Society. After Graduating Keisheona decided to use her skills to support her vision of becoming a small business owner and founder of a nonprofit organizations that supports people with disabilities. Keisheona’s motivations comes from her kids, as it brings her joy to show her kids that anything is possible despite challenges that are faced in life.

Kinshuk Tella – U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Environment Branch
A headshot of Kinshuk smiling at the camera. He is wearing a charcoal blue suit with a dotted white dress shirt. Kinshuk has medium length hair in a side swept quiff hairstyle and a stubble length beard.Kinshuk Tella (he/him) is a recent graduate from Miami University with bachelors in both Geology and Environmental Science. He is also a current second year graduate student in the Masters of Environmental Science program at Miami University with a concentration in Water Resources. His specific interests in environmental issues stems from his deep passion for the natural sciences, with a desire to holistically understand and interdisciplinarily approach modern day environmental issues with science-based policy solutions. In previous years, Kinshuk has spent his summers working in environmental regulatory compliance in the private sector for U.S technology and manufacturing companies such as Tesla Motors. This summer, Kinshuk looks forward to diving into the federal public sector side of environmental policy in Washington DC.

Outside of Kinshuk’s academic and career interests, he has a strong love for community building and student empowerment. He is heavily involved within the organized blind movement, where he serves on the board for the National Association of Blind Students, a proud division of the National Federation of the Blind, mentoring and guiding blind students towards living the lives they want. On campus, Kinshuk serves his university community as a resident assistant and student leader in DEI spaces at Miami University, specifically promoting positive disability philosophy and exploring the intersectionalities of diverse identities.

Lauren Proby – National Disability Rights Network
Headshot of Lauren Proby, a young African American woman with black knotless braids, smiling warmly at the camera. She is wearing dark purple glasses and a pink blouse covered with a black suit jacket. She also wears a string of pearls.Lauren Proby (she/her) is a disability justice and self advocate passionate about the intersections of disability, law, and policy. She is a current student at Spelman College studying English on the pre-law track with a minor in Sociology.

At present, Lauren works as a Policy Fellow at the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. She is a newly added researcher participating in the development of the Self Assessment of Autistic Traits (SAAT), a clinical survey focusing on the inner experiences of autism from the Autistic perspective. Lauren is also a current research fellow with Justice for Black Girls, furthering her work centered in exploring the rich, intersectional lives of Black disabled girls.

Lauren represents students with disabilities on the Illinois State Advisory Council on the Education of Children with Disabilities, where she serves as Chair of the Council’s Nominating Committee. Additionally, she is a member of the Center on Youth Voice, Youth Choice Alternatives to Guardianship Advisory Board, promoting independent living for youth and young adults with disabilities.

Previously, Lauren worked as the Disability Justice Lead for Youth Activism Project, where she co-led the organization’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities policy group. She is a proud alum of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s 2022 Autism Campus Inclusion Leadership Academy.

From testifying to her high school’s Board of Education about the ableism she experienced in their institution to advocating against natural hair discrimination to members of Congress, Lauren is a strong advocate for herself and others. Her advocacy has earned her recognition as a White House HBCU Scholar and a Heumann-Armstrong recipient, a national award for students with disabilities advocating against ableism in the education system.

In her free time, Lauren enjoys writing, dancing, listening to music, and crocheting.

Logan Jalil – The Kelsey
Headshot of Logan Jalil, tan-skinned Asian male, with short black hair, wearing green jacket and grey t-shirt. The background is outside during a sunset.Originally from Atlanta, GA, Logan Jalil (he/she/they) is a recent Political Science & Asian Studies graduate of Belmont University in Nashville, TN. During his time there, he developed leadership experience in several organizations that promoted civil engagement, diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI), and advocacy. He is very passionate about extending DEI conversations to accessibility, as well as the intersections of disability and racial marginalization. In addition, he has an interest towards urban development and public transportation through an accessible lens. Through the internship, Logan hopes to keep promoting these conversations both on a larger platform and in a professional setting. After college, he intends to go graduate school, work in the field of public policy, and eventually become a professor.
Melissa Shang – The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Headshot of Melissa Shang, a Chinese-American woman with black hair tied in a ponytail. She is wearing a denim blue dress and sitting in a power wheelchair. She is smiling. In her background is a white wallMelissa Shang (she/her) is a rising junior at Harvard University. She has been a disability activist since she was ten years old, when she started a viral petition for American Girl to release a doll with a disability. Since then, she’s written for the New York Times and Teen Vogue, and she wrote and published the book “Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School.” Melissa has spoken at the United Nations and done a TEDx talk. She is also the co-founder and co-president of Harvard’s Undergraduate Disability Justice Club.

After college, she plans to either attend law school and become a disability rights attorney or pursue a PhD in clinical psychology and become a psychologist with a specialty in disability.

Neil Purohit – The Century Foundation, Disability and Economic Justice Collaborative
Headshot of Neil Purohit, a South Asian man with short, side-parted hair, a beard, and glasses, wearing a white button down shirt and grey suit jacket, in front of a bright, plain white background.Neil Purohit (he/him) is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work degree at the Columbia University School of Social Work with a specialization in Leadership, Management, and Entrepreneurship for Social Justice. Neil is passionate about utilizing qualitative and quantitative data to improve access for people with disabilities in higher education and in the workplace. Prior to pursuing graduate studies he was a program coordinator for INCLUDEnyc, where he supported young people with disabilities as they planned for the future, delivered trainings to school staff, and where he led a skill building curriculum for transition aged youth. Before that, Neil was a community organizer for Brooklyn Community Services, where he worked to strengthen community ties and implement a pilot public health initiative funded by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In his free time, Neil can be found journaling, reading, and spending time in nature.
Rachel Litchman – National Disability Rights Network
Headshot of Rachel Litchman, a white person with long, wavy brown hair. She is wearing black glasses, a light green shirt, and a necklace with a yellow and black crystal.Rachel Litchman (she/her) is an artist, writer, advocate, and community organizer in Madison, Wisconsin. She has lived experience surviving youth homelessness and institutionalization as a teenager, as well as navigating several disabling chronic illnesses diagnosed as a teenager and young adult. These experiences have led her to become an advocate for disabled and housing insecure youth in her community. She currently works as a consultant for several organizations tackling youth homelessness and its intersection with a number of complex systems. These organizations include Youth Collaboratory, True Colors United, the Madison/Dane County Continuum of Care, and the National Runaway Safeline. Rachel also served on the board of Disability Pride Madison for four years, where she organized the Disability Pride festival and a disabled speaker and performance series. She uses this experience in disability organizing to help advocate for a greater analysis of ableism in the youth homelessness response system. Outside of her work on youth homelessness and disability advocacy, Rachel is a passionate writer and artist. Her comics and writing on disability-related issues have appeared or will appear in The Washington Post, Disability Visibility, The Nib, and other places. She believes art and personal storytelling are essential to creating change, and she’s at work on a graphic novel about navigating the healthcare system as a survivor of sexual violence.
Rudy Karthick – Toivoa

Headshot of Rudraasksh Karthick Bhuvaneswari, a south asian man with short black hair, wearing a white button up and grey suit jacket.Rudy Karthick (he/they) is an insightful computer science student and a rising sophomore who excels in C++ and Python and is a committed advocate for neurodiversity. Passionate about Math and Computer Science and wish to marry my knowledge of Computing, Math and Data Science and my experiences as a differently abled young adult to create technology enabled solutions to address the issues faced by others in the community. Maintained a 3.9 average in core CS subjects. As an ardent advocate of acceptance of people with invisible disabilities into mainstream society, I intend to continue to spread awareness and encourage social empathy to make a difference to every individual.

Saphire Murphy – Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs
Headshot of Saphire Murphy, a bi-Racial woman with braids in a purple dress and jean jacket, seated in her power wheelchair.Saphire Murphy (she/her) is a bi-racial woman who uses a reverse kaye walker and a power wheelchair. Saphire is a graduating master’s student from the University of Toledo with two degrees in Sociology and Liberal Studies. She focuses on the impact of the representation of disabled people in social movements and institutions. Saphire got her bachelor’s degree from Kent State University with a major in Sociology and a double minor in Disability Studies and Women’s Studies. Saphire’s passion for sociology comes from wanting to understand the idea of minorities being considered and treated like second and third-class citizens and the stereotypes and stigmas against disabled people. As she got more into her studies, she became interested in community work which moved her to work with local nonprofits in Cleveland, OH. Saphire has seen the impact disabled voice have firsthand in her community as she worked with the Northeast Ohio Coalition of Disability Organizations. Saphire serves on many committees, allowing her to learn about different disability-based nonprofits.

Saphire plans to gain her doctorate in Sociology and teach Disabilities in society to help people understand the challenges facing people with disabilities and how intersectionality affects them. She has always been interested in how other people, organizations, and companies interact with people with disabilities.

In her free time, Saphire loves to learn, which she does through traveling, visiting museums, and reading memoirs.

Sarah Smith – National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
Headshot of Sarah Smith, a Latina female with short black hair, black rimmed glasses, and  braces. She is wearing a white floral top and black cardigan.

Sarah Smith (she/her) is originally from Victorville, California but moved to Delaware, Ohio to finish her undergraduate education. She is Latina and a first-generation student who recently graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University where she majored in Social Justice and minored in Sociology and Anthropology. Throughout her time at OWU, she has focused on advocating in the University’s student government for disability issues around campus and within the classroom. Sarah was able to form and create a student organization at her University focusing on providing education, support, and awareness to students with disabilities and who are allies to the disabled community. Through her own on-campus advocacy journey, this led her to find her own passion and drive for work and advocacy in disability.

Shariese Katrell – U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs
Shariese Katrell (she/her) is an intelligent neurodiHeadshot of Shariese Katrell, a black female with locs, wearing sunglasses, and a retro brown, pink, orange, grey, and white shirt.vergent scholar, educational leader, artist, and current doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership Doctorate Program at Rowan University. In 2016 Shariese founded Rowan’s Hidden dis/Ability Alliance student organization. She continues to be an active dis/Ability rights advocate and educational awareness leader at the postsecondary level for students with learning, developmental, and neurodivergent dis/Abilities. She was awarded Rowan’s 2021 Excellence in Diversity Award for her community and public service. Shariese Katrell was appointed as a student board member in 2023 to the Association of Higher Education and Disabilities (AHEAD). She strives for equal accessibility and fairness in our American postsecondary educational system. Shariese is a guest lecturer on the following topics: Black Feminism, Intersectionality, DisCrit Awareness, Universal Design, Educational Accountability & Ethical Leadership, and Understanding Your Disability Rights. Shariese was the student board representative for the Society of Disability Studies from 2020 until 2023 and still is a current member. Shariese uses her creative talents in the Music Business and Production from her undergraduate degree from William Paterson University to create music as a source of transformative holistic therapy and inspiration for all diverse learners. She currently volunteers and assists students at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, NJ, mentoring students with developmental and learning dis/Abilities in the DREAM Program and helping students like herself transition into the community successfully.
Shawn Abraham – U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Headshot of Shawn Abraham, an Indian man with a trimmed beard, wearing a blue and white checkered button up and a navy suit jacket with a pink pocket square.Shawn Abraham (he/him) is a fourth year at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, majoring in political science with a focus on international relations. Shawn is a strong advocate for issues in the blindness community. He is most proud of regularly volunteering with the National Federation of the Blind in its lobbying efforts of state and national legislatures, hosting and serving on multiple panels regarding disability awareness, and having spent many summers teaching Blind children and youth skills such as braille and cane travel.. He was selected in 2022 for the National Federation of the Blind scholarship, an $8,000 award given to the highest achieving blind students in the country. In addition, Shawn has been heavily involved on his campus, having served as a resident assistant and being active in cultural organizations. He has a love of writing, a passion for fashion, And a Strong connection to his South Asian-American identity.. Outside of these interests, you can typically find Shawn spending time with friends, or curled up with a good book or podcast.
Shreya Singh – Office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Headshot of Shreya Singh, a brown-skinned South Asian woman with long black hair. She wears a pink blazer and cream colored shirt. Shreya Singh (she/her) grew up and currently resides in the Bay Area in California. She graduated with honors and recieved a B.A. in Psychology at the University of California, Davis.

During her time at UC Davis, Shreya was heavily involved in a dance team on campus called “Unbound Progression Dance Company.” Dance has always been a part of her life, however, it hasn’t been an easy journey given her chronic illness that has affected her since birth.

Shreya hopes to become a disability rights attorney in the future. She aims to specifically work with students who have disabilities with their rights throughout their educational career. This entails help with IEP/504 plans and other accommodations in the public school system specifically. Shreya strongly believes in creating more visibility for disabled individuals as well as encouraging them from a young age to advocate for themselves and their rights. Shreya also has great interest in learning and researching more about how she can deepen her understanding of what disability involves. Instead of only relying on her own personal experiences with disability and chronic illness, she hopes to hear more voices on other varying disabilities and in turn, how to foster a more accommodating and understanding world.

Stephanie Picazo – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living
Headshot of Stephanie Picazo, a light skinned Latina with black curly hair pulled back into a ponytail. She wears black glasses, gold hoop earrings, a black and white patterned top and black blazer.Stephanie Picazo (she/her/ella) is a proud Hispanic woman and first-generation college graduate. She is pursuing a Master’s in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling with a focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). When she was a child, she had the aspiration to make a difference in the world. Through her development and experiences, she recognized a reoccurring yearning to connect with others to empower people, foster belonging, and advocate for the rights and inclusion of people facing social barriers. Her educational background in rehabilitation studies equipped her with the tools to support individuals with disabilities to achieve their desired quality of life. She wants to take knowledge to a level that makes a systemic change in society. She participated in a study abroad program in the Summer of 2017, where she learned about Disability Policy in UK Edinburgh & London, England. Through this experience, her passion and interest grew in disability rights and social justice; she desires to develop innovative best practices that advance DEI and is passionate about raising awareness and understanding of intersectionality and strategizing solutions for social barriers and adversity. She has held various leadership positions in various employment and civic organizations. She is the Program Coordinator for Advocates Searching for Independence LLC. She is the founding President of the first Community/Caused-based Rotaract Club in District 5930; she is the Rotary DEI Committee Chair and President of the Graduate Rehabilitation Counseling Association at UTRGV. Stephanie aspires to pursue a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Counseling & Administration, specializing in Disability Policy. She aspires to have a career in Disability International Affairs, advocating for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Trisha Kulkarni – U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Office of the Chair
Headshot of Trisha Kulkarni, with her hair down. She is wearing stylish glasses and a black dress and grey cardigan.Trisha Kulkarni (she/her) is currently pursuing her Bachelors and Masters of Science in Computer Science at Stanford University, where she is concentrating in the field of Human Computer Interaction. Her personal experiences pushing through inequitable systems as a disabled woman fuels her dedication to increasing access and representation across the board. Trisha has brought her perspective to leading technology companies as a software engineering intern, most recently at Microsoft and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative , while also devoting her time to mentorship and advocacy efforts as the President of the National Association of Blind Students, the student division of the National Federation of the Blind. On her campus, Trisha focuses on empowering people of all backgrounds to realize their technical potential—serving as a committed teacher’s assistant to the introductory computer science series and researching how to change the narrative for blind students interested in electrical engineering and hands-on maker spaces. She is thrilled to be exploring the public sector this summer, along with all that Washington, D.C. has to offer.