2024 Summer Interns

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is pleased to announce the Summer Internship Program Cohort of 2024.

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 2024 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, Coca-Cola Foundation, Microsoft, and United Airlines for supporting our Summer Internship Program.

Photos by Jeevan Portraits.

Meet the 2024 Class

Aaliyah Booker – Open Style Lab

A Black female with blonde curly hair tied up smiling at the camera with her hands in her pocket. She is wearing a white long sleeved button down shirt with a red tie with white stars, gold bangles, and gray-tan pants.Aaliyah Booker (she/her), a 22 year old student-athlete for the Saint Peter’s track and field team uses her platform to advocate for the craniofacial + disability community. Booker was born with a rare congenital condition called: Goldenhar Syndrome which is a syndrome that affects both or one side of your face and body. For her it affected the left side of her face and body; being born with no left ear, partially blind in left eye and missing the left side of her mandible, but none of this has stopped her from achieving any of her goals.

“Being able to share my story and to be a light for others has truly been a blessing. I share my story to inspire young kids & teens out there who look different just like me & to prove to society that “Different is Beautiful” and that we are more than just our differences ” Booker said.

Booker is a current Saint Peter’s University senior who is pursuing her Bachelor of in Biology and will then go off to pursue her doctorate degree in Physical therapy where she will one day work in pediatrics assisting kids with special needs which is one of her life long goals. Booker even owns her own business: “Born to Stand Out.”

Booker plans to use this business for advocacy work such as public speaking, modeling, and hosting events. Don’t miss out she plans on breaking down all beauty standards and continues on being a better and bigger advocate.

Alyssa Christopher – Project LETS

Headshot of Alyssa Christopher, a Black biracial person with long curly brown hair and tattoos on their forearm. They are smiling at the camera and wearing a black top, a black and white floral skirt, and a black and white keffiyeh.Alyssa Christopher (they/them/she/her) is a third-year doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology PhD program at University of Massachusetts Boston. They previously graduated with a BS in Psychology and Classical Studies from Centre College (Danville, KY) as a Posse and Bonner Scholar.

Their research interests include examining the impact of structural oppression (e.g., anti-Blackness, ableism/sanism, anti-fatness, cisheteropatriarchy, etc.) on the psychological well-being of Black LGBTQIA+ young adults and the presence of these structures within the mental health system. In their current research they are exploring the unique relationship between ableism/sanism and anti-Blackness as a framework for better understanding the experiences of Black folks’ interactions with the mental health system. Clinically Alyssa incorporates principles of liberation psychology, Black/African-centered psychology, mad pride, and disability justice to offer collaborative person-centered therapy that is grounded in understanding clients in the context of power, privilege, and oppression. Drawing from their lived experiences as a fat, Black/biracial, disabled, neurodivergent, and queer person, they are committed to interrupting carceral, pathologizing, queer-/transphobic, and racist practices in psychological spaces.

Through this internship they hope to be a part of community in a cross-disability space, in addition to growing their advocacy skills. In their free time you can find Alyssa reading, watching anime, getting tattooed, cooking, painting, and spending time with their loved ones.

Ann Johnston – U.S. Department of Energy

Headshot of Ann Johnston. A white person with dark-blond hair tied back and glasses. She is smiling, and wearing a teal top with a black blazer.Ann Johnston (she/her) is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Statistics at Penn State, advised by Dr. Aleksandra Slavkovic. Her research centers on algebraic and official statistics, with an emphasis on understanding underspecified models and analyzing structure in missing/incomplete data. As a graduate student with disabilities, Ann is confronted every day with issues of disability equity, access, and belonging in the U.S. system of higher education. She aims to leverage her data and analysis skills to better understand and address these issues, and she is excited to dive deeper into the space of disability advocacy this summer.

Ann did her undergrad at Harvey Mudd College, earning a B.S. in Mathematics. She has also earned an M.A. in Mathematics from the University of Southern California and a concurrent M.S. in Statistics from Penn State. While at Penn State, Ann has developed a depth of experience in teaching and working with students. She was also funded for two years by Penn State’s Statistical Consulting Center, where she worked with faculty and graduate students from diverse fields, providing guidance and support on research-related statistical questions.

Chloe Marbell Davidson – National Center for College Students with Disabilities

Light-skin Latina woman with shoulder-length brown hair and brown eyes, standing outside with left hand on waist wearing a white top, black pants, and light brown blazer.Chloe Marbell Davidson (She/Her/Ella) is a dynamic neurodivergent Latina researcher, public speaker, and disability advocate based in Orange County, California. Holding degrees in History and Anthropology from the University of California, Irvine, Chloe spearheads accessible social and recreational programs as a Community Service Leader for the City of Irvine Disability Services. Her passion for disability advocacy stems from the challenges faced during her transition from high school to university as a first-generation disabled student of color, fueling her determination to amplify underrepresented voices in academia.

During her undergraduate, Chloe distinguished herself as a scholar in the UCI Libraries Special Collections Transforming Knowledge, Transforming Libraries 2019 cohort, focusing on advancing ethnic studies through local community archive collaboration at the Santa Ana History Room. From this experience, she was awarded the Dr. Lorna Carlin M.D. Scholarship from UCI Disability Service Center. Continuing her impact, she served as a peer-mentor in the School of Humanities and a Pathfinder Peer Educator for the Student Outreach and Retention (SOAR) Center. These roles allowed her to provide personalized consultations and develop innovative retention programs at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chloe’s outstanding service was recognized with the prestigious Chancellor’s Award of Distinction in May of 2022 and selected as student speaker for SOAR End of Year Celebration.

Post-graduation, Chloe conducted collaborative research at the iSchool Inclusion Institute (i3) based at the University of Texas, Austin. Her team’s poster proposal on university health patient-portals was presented at iConference 2023 in Barcelona, Spain. Simultaneously, she actively engaged in the Hispanias Organized for Political Equity (HOPE) College Leadership Program, co-leading a civic project, and establishing connections with influential Latina professionals across the nation. Chloe’s next endeavor involves going to graduate school to revolutionize transition services by enhancing information dissemination, admission processes, and retention rates for students with disabilities.

Cristina – The Aspen Institute

The image shows a woman with long dark hair, tan skin, and warm brown eyes smiling at the camera. She wears a white short-sleeved button-up shirt-dress with two front pockets. She stands in a park with blurred greenery as her background.Cristina (she/her) is a recent cum laude graduate from Tufts University. She was born in Arequipa, Peru, grew up in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, and traveled throughout the Northeast for most of her young adulthood. If you ask her how she got here–she would mention a long-winded story of humorous mishaps, favorable circumstances, and sparing tragedies. Now, as she is navigating potential career moves and implementing initiatives for access to higher education, and new beginnings, she admits that she tries her best not to lose track of what matters to her. With experience in varying industries, ranging from Data Center Project Management to UX design to writing, she is now enrolled in the 2024 AAPD Internship.

Emily Gonzalez - National Disability Rights Network

Emily Gonzalez is a Latinx woman with curly dark brown hair smiling at the camera. She is wearing red lipstick and a white short-sleeve blouse.Emily Gonzalez (she/her/hers) is a first-generation student of Colombian and Cuban descent. She is a Senior at Bates College majoring in Politics and Gender and Sexuality Studies. In addition to her academic studies, Emily loves to paint, read, and take salsa classes for fun. Her passion and interests in public policy are the housing crisis, immigration reforms, and the public education system. Since having encephalitis at a young age and experiencing challenges in the public education system, her lifelong goal is to receive her Master’s in Public Policy and J.D. to work in educational law.

Emmett Lockwood – LINK Houston

Headshot of Emmett Lockwood, a white passing white and indigenous man with brown hair wearing a blue polo, a brown belt with embroidered designs and black jeans. They are smiling and using two forearm crutches.Emmett Lockwood (he/they) is a disability justice practitioner, student activist, and self-advocate passionate about public policy, critical access, and sewing the seeds of decolonial and anti-oppressive communities. They are a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies with minors in American Indian and Indigenous Studies and the Integrated Studies of Science, Engineering, and Society.

At present, Lockwood works as a Full Committee Chairman’s Intern at the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions expanding on his previous work in Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) Vermont District Office to serve the calls from the American public for health equity, ending of colonial conquest, and oversight of emerging technology.

Lockwood also has research experience both as a current Disability Studies Research Intern for the University of Michigan – 1Cademy Lab where he works to create open access research resources on disability justice, and his work with the UW-Madison Elections Research Center highlighting the lack of adherence to federal accessibility law at Madison polling sites.

On campus Lockwood serves as the Equity and Inclusion Chair for the Associated Students of Madison, the University of Wisconsin -Madison’s student governance body, where he works to create systems that mitigate the harm caused by the systemic oppression of academia, answer the call for support for student labor unions, and holding the university accountable for moving their support of DEIA work off paper and into action.

Lockwood’s passion comes from their lived experience as a transgender, queer, and disabled individual growing up in New England whose family faced settler-colonial violence at the hands of both the Canadian and American governments. This passion was spurred on by Lockwood’s work in high school outfitting arm and hand prosthetics with AI integration, and his work on making high-capability low-cost prosthetics.

Jakeel Abdullah – United States International Council on Disabilities

African-American male, with ear length curled brown hair wearing Ankh earring on left ear. Wearing black long-sleeved button down shirt, with “Hello Kitty” bowtie. Arms positioned at waste with hands placed on top hem of pink roses skirt.Jakeel Abdullah (he/him, she/her), an unwavering advocate from the vibrant city of New Orleans, Louisiana, stands as an impassioned champion not only for disability rights and LGBTQ+ equality but also for black and other marginalized communities. As a self-advocate navigating intricate challenges within these intersecting identities, Jakeel brings a distinctive and inclusive perspective to his advocacy endeavors.

Guided by their profound mission statement, “Dream, not of what you are, but of what you can become,” Jakeel actively facilitates others in realizing their latent capabilities. Through eloquent public discourse, compelling personal narratives, and strategic social media engagement, he fearlessly shares his experiences, inspiring individuals from diverse backgrounds to transcend societal constraints.

In addition to his localized advocacy, Jakeel adopts a progressive approach, endeavoring to construct bridges that connect him to the larger community of Louisiana and with the broader United States but also to foster meaningful dialogues with countries across the globe. Recognizing the imperative of global collaboration, he seeks to forge connections that transcend geographical boundaries, exchanging insights and embracing diverse perspectives. Within the sphere of LGBTQ+ rights, disability advocacy, and beyond, Jakeel’s journey as a self-advocate dismantles stereotypes and dispels misconceptions. Openly sharing his narrative, he empowers others within the LGBTQ+ community while encouraging individuals with disabilities to envision a future where opportunities proliferate. Simultaneously, Jakeel ardently advocates for black and other marginalized communities, addressing systemic issues and fervently working towards social justice.

Jakeel’s commitment to self-advocacy extends to legislative arenas, where he actively shapes policies affecting the disabled, LGBTQ+, black, and marginalized communities. Leveraging personal experiences with eloquence, he champions changes that promote inclusivity, equitable opportunities, and formidable safeguards against discrimination.

In embodying their mission statement, Jakeel Abdullah transcends the role of an advocate, emerging as a beacon of resilience, self-empowerment, and the transformative impact of personal advocacy. His dedication transcends local confines, contributing to the creation of a more inclusive global landscape by building bridges and nurturing dialogue on national and international platforms, with a steadfast focus on uplifting all marginalized communities.

Katie Sullivan – Institute for Human Centered Design

Katie, a white femme with a blunt auburn bob and gravity-defying bangs smiles slightly for the camera. She is bespectacled in vaguely hexagonal frames, donning an olive green suit and a can-do attitude.Katie Sullivan (she/her) is a disabled third-year undergraduate– double majoring in Medicine, Health, & Society and Gender Studies at Vanderbilt University. Propelled by a nature of chasmic curiosity and earnest conviction that the classroom is a site of transformative potential, she aspires toward the professoriate. Sullivan has been deeply impacted by her professors who have openly identified as disabled and she strives to sustain a legacy of disabled knowing, creating, and reinventing within and beyond academia. Currently, Sullivan is a research assistant at the Critical Design Lab and a media specialist for the Doctors with Disabilities Podcast. She primarily situates her scholarship and organizing efforts in critical disability and access studies; she is interested in examining online disability communities, Autistic epistemologies, feminist science and technology studies, and the sociospatial politics of chronic illness and pain. Her work can be found in the forthcoming issue of Refractions: A Journal of Postcolonial Cultural Criticism and Women & Gender Studies of the South. Sullivan was a coalitional organizer and inaugural staff member at the UW Madison Disability Cultural Center, and has served on the board of Disability Pride Madison and as a city commissioner for Disability Rights in Madison, Wisconsin. Previous engagements include research surrounding online ableism, anxiety, and digital health with the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Community praxis and creativity are particularly important to Sullivan, and she grounds her work in a commitment to anti-ableism, crip futurity, and the pursuit of Disability Justice. She enjoys making zines, sharing her musings in the vast ether of the blogosphere, and trekking through her to-be-read list.

Leland J. Pan – Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

A Taiwanese and Vietnamese American woman with shoulder-length and curled ends, a jade necklace, silver studded earrings, a blush pink blazer with a black ribbed top, off-white colored trousers with her right hand in her pocket posing in front of a blurred background of treesLeland J. Pan (she/her) is a Junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying Political Science with concentrations in citizen politics, ethnic studies, and urban planning. Growing up in her mother’s salon, she learned how to build rapport with neighbors from all walks of life and found value in community care and the reparative practices that bloom into living in permanent resistance. Leland took her love of people to community organizing in high school and college, where she served as a student ambassador for Save the Children to work on their mental health parity, nutrition security, and educational equity initiatives from 2018-2022. Capping off her time with SAVE, she was named their Student Ambassador of the Year for her relentless discipline in advocating with her community and co-creating her team’s dynamic with radical empathy and candor. 

Since then, Leland has moved on to create waves in her heart as a disabled activist and those with whom she finds the pleasure to cross paths. She has served as a Running Start Congressional Fellow and an Elect Her Facilitator to empower young women to run for civic leadership while advocating for the systemic development of diversity and inclusion practices in higher education with Young Invincibles. In her new chapter, Leland is diving deeper into disability social justice as a researcher and organizer for the transdisciplinary initiative Crip*—Cripistemology and the Arts. 

Leland’s mission becomes more evident by the day. She hopes to attend graduate school and use her degrees as a vehicle to evolve her mission in sharing the wisdom of how it feels to be in dehumanizing institutions and how we can co-create a culture that is rooted in radical love with the integrity of showing up as such and building the relationships that foster it.

Lu Ming – Dozanu Innovations

An Asian woman who is smiling with Black hair and yellow highlights. She is wearing a navy blue work blouse and beige trousers with a brown belt.Lu Ming (she/her) is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Accessible Human-Centered Computing at Gallaudet University, where she not only honed her academic skills but also gained a profound understanding and appreciation of the diverse aspects of disability culture. Her time at the university is marked by a sincere pursuit of knowledge, coupled with a strong commitment to inclusive community engagement. This passion for learning isn’t confined to her academic endeavors; it extends into every facet of her life, inspiring her to seek opportunities that allow her to apply her knowledge in practical settings. Additionally, she has always been deeply dedicated to working collaboratively, striving to create environments that foster understanding, inclusivity, and empowerment for people with disabilities.

Maria G. Sandoval Medina – Unlock Access, LLC

Maria is a light complected latina with straight brown hair. She is wearing a burgundy polka dot shirt with black jeans and is sitting in a manual wheelchair with a seat belt.Maria Medina (she/her/ella) is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Social Work, at California State University Northridge. Growing up with a disability in a small town in California, she developed a passion for advocacy from a very young age. Growing up in an immigrant family she developed a great pride for her culture, while also realizing the difficulties that minority populations often encounter. Due to this she developed a strong interest in social policy and disability rights. With a graduate degree, she hopes to create a more equitable environment for people with disabilities and other marginalized groups. She hopes to do this not only in community and governmental settings but also in the private sector. Through this Maria hopes to create greater diversity and accessibility in all parts of society.

Mira Gaitanis – The Harkin Institute

A mixed race girl with Vietnamese features, light tan skin, and long brown hair that goes past her shoulders wears dark red cat eye glasses smiles at the camera. She looks determined. She is wearing a burgundy red dress that is a mock turtleneck and a black blazer. The background is blurred greens and tans like she is standing in a forest.Mira Gaitanis (she/her) is an alumnus from Florida State University, which is where she attained her bachelor’s degree in media and communications. She is currently working towards gaining a certificate in conflict resolution and consensus building from Florida International University. She is a graduate of The Cohelo Law Center Law Fellowship, which is an international fellowship in disability law, and she has recently graduated from Harvard’s Future Leaders in Law Fellowship. She is passionate about disability advocacy and inclusion and has been speaking publicly about her journey since she was 18. Her goal is to become a disability rights lawyer and word in educational and international law.

Nila Morton – U.S. Department of Transportation

a picture of Nila Morton who’s a Black woman. She’s sitting in her black power wheelchair. She has dark brown twists which are in a high bun. She’s wearing black frame glasses with a beige long sleeve button down top. She’s wearing beige slacks. She has on small gold hoop earrings.Nila Morton (she/her), a 25-year-old African American woman, is currently pursuing her Master’s in Social Work at Howard University. Apart from her academic pursuits, Nila has a passion for art and enjoys both reading and writing stories. She values going on adventures and spending time with her friends. Nila has a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy known as Ullrich, which requires her to use a power wheelchair. As a person living with a disability, she actively advocates for the rights and needs of the disability community, addressing systemic ableism through her social media platforms. She also highlights the intersectionality of racism and ableism in her discussions. Her ultimate goal is to become a therapist specializing in working with people with disabilities, with aspirations of obtaining a PhD to conduct research on disability-related issues and potentially becoming a university professor.

Ozioma Collins Oguine – Center for Democracy and Technology

Ozzie (Black Male with locs) dressed in a navy blue shirt, gold chain and Jeans.Ozioma “Ozzie” Oguine (he/him) is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, advised and mentored by Dr. Karla Badillo-Urquiola at the EPOCH Research Lab. He is a current Graduate Justice Fellow at the University of Notre Dame, and his research endeavors focus on fostering inclusivity by amplifying the voices of underrepresented and minority communities (such as foster youth, adolescents with disabilities, and users from the global south, etc.). Through the lens of human-computer interaction, his research aims to contribute to the design and development of technologies that prioritize the safety and well-being of these marginalized groups. With a commitment to responsible computing and online privacy, he aspires to bridge gaps in technology accessibility and advocate for a more inclusive digital landscape for people with disabilities and other marginalized users. When he is not doing research, you may find him either working out, playing football, or cycling on his bike.

Seth E Canada – Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network

An Asian male wearing black glasses, light blue long-sleeve shirt, light maroon tie, and navy pants smiles and poses with his hands in his pant pocketsA 2022 magna cum laude graduate of the School of Continuing Studies at Georgetown University, Seth Canada (he/him, they/them) earned the 2022 Tropaia Outstanding Student Award recognizing his academic aptitude, leadership, and “commitment to justice.” In 2021, he interned with FreeState Justice (FSJ), an LGBTQ+ legal advocacy organization and developed skills transferable to the law profession he aspires to enter, undeterred by the profession’s minimal inclusion of gender-variant folks and people with disabilities. Following the internship, he was part of the two-person finalist team that competed in a moot court during the Student Press Law Center’s 2021 Summer Institute. He has also fought personal legal battles, notably in immigration and housing.

Seth persevered in his studies and life, enriching course discussions with his lived experiences and intersectional identities. His writing reflects insight gained from these experiences. His blog posts published on FSJ’s website highlight an increasing need for trans-affirming practices in the legal profession. Pointing out earlier COVID-19 guideline fallacies that ignored vulnerability of people with certain disabilities, he asserts in another writing that COVID is a teachable moment for ADHD destigmatization.

Seth is determined to not let gatekeeping in any form impede his access to legal education. Seth was accepted into the 2022-23 cohort of Sidley Prelaw Scholars who come from diverse backgrounds underrepresented in the profession. He also was thrilled about being included as a 2023 class of Coelho Law Fellow, along with 25 other future disability legal advocates. In 2023, he joined Fighting for Fairness, his third pre-law/ law pathway program, as one of the five fellows selected for the inaugural year.

Growing up as a neurodivergent person without access to proper diagnosis and care, cycling and adventures were his “drugs” for coping. He can talk his head off about his cross-country cycling tour (4262+ miles in 90 days) in 2016.

Vanessa L. Sanders – Association of Maternal and Child Health Progams

Headshot of Vanessa Sanders (she/they), a Black and Indigenous woman with brown skin and straight dark brown hair. She is wearing a pale pink blouse, a black blazer, and black pants.Vanessa Sanders (she/her/they) is a passionate Black and Indigenous, chronically ill neurodivergent young woman dedicated to advancing health equity. In December 2023, she graduated from Willamette University with a degree in Public Health and a minor in American Ethnic Studies. Vanessa’s academic research focuses on the intersection of race, gender, and health outcomes, with a particular interest in exploring connections between colonization, racism, ableism, and homophobia in the context of health and history. Beyond academia, Vanessa has been deeply involved in disability and racial justice work, most recently as a Coelho Law Fellow at the Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy & Innovation. There, her research focused on centering Black Disabled people within the larger U.S. maternal health crisis.

Zofia Trexler – Center for Racial and Disability Justice

Zofia, a light-skinned, female presenting person is pictured smiling at the camera with their arms crossed. They have medium length, dark brown curly hair and brown eyes. They are wearing rectangular abalone earrings, a white button down, dark blue coat, and a black skirt. The background of the photo, a grey pavilion with green foliage and orange flowers, is blurred.Zofia Trexler (they/she) is an incoming senior at Stanford University from Fresno, California majoring in Urban Studies. They are a dis/abled scholar activist interested in examining race, law, labor, education, policing, and surveillance as they intersect with dis/ability. They currently work at Disability Rights California as a Peer Self Advocacy Trainer, where they create and present materials focused on transitional age youth. Outside of work, they engage in on-campus labor organizing and demonstrates leadership on the MHA Youth Policy Accelarator and California Behavioral Health Task Force, among others. Zofia is interested in law and sociolegal studies, with the goal of attending law school and engaging in dis/ability justice work.