Former AAPD Summer Intern Launches Disability Allies
August 9, 2016 | Zach Baldwin
As a young man with Tourette’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Ross Yellin at times found it difficult to interact with his peers socially. This limited his confidence and led to Ross feeling isolated and alone, but that all changed when he applied for and was accepted into AAPD’s Summer Internship Program.
Ross was a member of the 2012 Summer Internship Program and was placed with the United States Access Board The AAPD Summer Internship Program connects students from all over the country will all types of disabilities to summer internships with members of Congress, federal agencies, and disability rights nonprofit organizations. Each intern is matched with a mentor who will assist them with their career goals. AAPD provides the interns with a stipend, transportation to and from Washington, DC, and fully-accessible housing. At the beginning of the summer, interns participate in a 1-week orientation session to learn about AAPD as well as the disability rights movement, meet the other interns, and participate in a variety of engaging workshops and events. As part of the AAPD network, interns also receive opportunities to attend events on Capitol Hill, conferences, community events, and more.
Participating in AAPD’s Summer Internship Program and working with the Access Board helped Ross develop the social skills needed to fully integrate into adult life. Ross left DC with a renewed sense of self and enrolled in Ramapo College to study political science. The experience stayed with Ross. He began to wonder why this kind of programming wasn’t more readily available to people with disabilities and if there was anything he could do about it. At the age of 22, Ross started Disability Allies to share what he had learned by bringing people together in a way that promotes teamwork and collaboration.
Disability Allies is a volunteer organization that seeks to change the way people with disabilities socialize after they leave high school and during their transition into adult life. The organization aims to create a safe haven for young adults who have been diagnosed with a disability; bridge the gap between those who have been diagnosed with disabilities and those who have not been diagnosed; help strengthen social skills of all participants; spread understanding about mental illness; and hold social events for members.
There are several different ways to engage with and support Disability Allies:
Disability Allies hosts monthly events where they organize team building activities that connect young adults with and without disabilities. At these events individuals are paired up with a mentor. The job of the mentor is to help the participants with their social skills and ensure that everyone interacts with one another. These events are open to any young adult that has a disability, knows someone with a disability, or is supportive of people with disabilities. Disability Allies partners with the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) to host these events.
Recreation Center Program
The Recreation Center Program will be held at various disability-related Day Programs and can also be run either during the day as a replacement for an existing Day Program or after the day program during the evening for several nights a week. This program will create an opportunity for consumers to interact with other peers their age who may not have a disability. Participants can be members of an existing Day Program or not, as long as there is an interest. The Primary emphasis will be on young adults aged 18-35. The program will engage participants in a variety of activities, both social and professional.
Transition to College Program
Disability Allies hosts events to pair high school students with disabilities with college students. The purpose of these events is to assist high school students with disabilities with the transition process into college. Each event consists of a variety of team building activities and workshops. The workshops include topics such as accommodations, advocating for oneself, finding an appropriate career path, and involvement in clubs and organizations on campus. These Transition to College events are held at local colleges during school hours The high school students are selected by their school counselors to participate in this event.
Disability Allies Walkathons are held several times a year. A wide variety of team building activities and workshops are organized as a part of each event in addition to resource fairs where nonprofit organizations and businesses that benefit people with disabilities are showcased. Each participant is expected to secure sponsorships for each lap they walk.
Cartoon Building Program
Disabilities Allies and Microsoft are partnering to organize a Cartoon Building Workshop. Participants will be divided up into teams to create a cartoon character with a backstory. Each team learns how to animate the cartoon though PowerPoint and other programs before making a presentation with their group. In addition to Microsoft, Disability Allies has also partnered with WallynZavy’s Autistic Kids Can Do and Asbergers Friends.
AAPD is committed to the students with disabilities who participate in our Summer Internship Program, even as alumni. We are proud to support Ross and the instrumental work he is doing through Disability Allies. To learn more and get involved please visit http://www.disabilityallies.com/ or contact Ross Yellin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (908) 616-5091.