2022 Summer Interns

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is pleased to announce the Summer Internship Program Class of 2022. 

In 2002, AAPD launched the Summer Internship Program to develop the next generation of leaders with disabilities. For 20 years, we have 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.

Each AAPD Summer Intern:

  • Is matched with a mentor who provides them with career guidance.
  • Is provided with a living stipend, transportation to and from Washington, DC, and fully accessible housing, provided by AAPD
  • Develops advocacy skills through AAPD’s Disability Advocacy Certificate Program, where interns learn about key issues in the disability community and develop skills and knowledge to effectively advocate on the local, state, and national level.
  • Receives opportunities to attend events and network with experienced professionals on Capitol Hill, as well as through conferences, community events, briefings, and more.

The 2022 Summer Interns will also be part of events with past intern classes and alumni as AAPD celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Summer Internship Program. 

COVID-19 has shaped the last few years of our internship program in countless ways. For the Summer of 2022, AAPD has ensured that our Summer Interns are able to make choices related to managing their health and safety during the continued pandemic. Interns could choose between participating in-person in Washington, DC, being fully remote, or developing a flexible hybrid option to suit their needs. We also remain flexible for any in-person or hybrid intern to have the option to pivot to remote work as needed at any time during their internship. 

AAPD has closely monitored the COVID-19 pandemic during our planning process and continues to monitor the pandemic and relevant local and federal guidance as well as expert-advised best practice. All Summer Internship participants, including AAPD staff and guest speakers, have agreed to a thorough safety protocol that includes requirements for vaccines, masks, regular testing, and testing before in-person gatherings, with tests provided by AAPD. Project N95’s Masks for Communities Coalition has generously donated N95 or equivalent masks for our AAPD interns, staff, and guest speakers this summer. Read our COVID safety guidelines for the 2022 Summer Internship Program here

The 2022 AAPD Summer Internship Program would not be possible without the generous support of our partners. Thank you to the Aid Association for the Blind, District of Columbia, Arconic Foundation, Microsoft, The Coca-Cola Foundation, and United Airlines for supporting these talented up-and-coming leaders and professionals. 

Meet the 2022 Class 

Ace Frazier – National Black Justice Coalition

Ace Frazier (she/they) will spend the Summer of 2022 interning at the National Black Justice Coalition. Ace is a rising junior at Georgetown University where they are majoring in Business Management with a double minor in Disability Studies and African American Studies. Their interests in diversity and inclusion in the business world began at their time here in Georgetown after engaging multiple community and activist efforts as a student and through their courses in the Disability Studies department. They introduced themselves to many issues regarding Disability Rights/Justice, Black Justice, Native Justice/Rights, and more and have engaged in many local and national efforts in support of marginalized identities. Ace has been selected as a Lime Connect Fellow for being a high-performing disabled student in academia and was chosen amongst hundreds of students across the nation. Ace has goals to work in the Diversity and Inclusion department of a company or educational organization. They enjoy spending their free time practicing different recipes in the kitchen and watching their favorite tv shows with their friends on weekly show nights.

Adreenah “Dreezy” Wynn – Creative Reaction Lab

Adreenah “Dreezy” Wynn (she/her) will spend the Summer of 2022 interning at the Creative Reaction Lab. Dreezy is a queer, black, female, graphic designer, thriving with anxiety, depression, and a blood disorder called Sickle Cell Disease. Dreezy graduated from the University of Florida in 2017 with a dual degree in Graphic Design and Art+Technology as well as a minor in Sociology and Arts in Medicine Certificate. Dreezy is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Design and Visual Communications at UF. Dreezy considers herself a Social Designer, Digital Storyteller, and Art Activist.

Dreezy uses design as a catalyst to initiate real conversation, amongst real people, about real issues. Much of her work has a social justice theme. Her top medium would be video and digital media. You can check out more of her artwork at: www.adreenah.com. Dreezy has volunteered and facilitated art and story-telling workshops in UF Health Shands Hospital, juvenile detention centers, and within the community including schools. She’s spent these past few years community organizing, including participating in AAPD’s Fannie Lou Hamer Program which played a role in her on-going journey to make an impact in the Black Disabled Community. 

Alexandra “Zandy” Wong – Office of Congresswoman Katie Porter

Alexandra “Zandy” Wong (she/her) will spend Summer of 2022 interning for the Office of Congresswoman Katie Porter. Zandy is a rising junior studying public health at Johns Hopkins University originally from Alexandria, Virginia. At Hopkins, her research focuses on exploring the intersection of public health and neuroscience to ensure better hearing healthcare. When she’s not in the lab, she can be found sharing her story of growing up with hearing loss on the TEDx stage, with podcasts, and on industry panels to encourage acceptance of those with disabilities.  She is also involved with various disability advocacy projects. She is the founder of the NextGen Accessibility Initiative, where her work to improve digital accessibility within the NextGen Accessibility Initiative has reached over 61,000 youth in 119 countries. 

In her community, she advises state legislators on reforming sexual health education for disabled youth as a State Youth Advisor for Virginia’s Disability-Inclusive Sexual Health Network. Zandy also advises the Department of Labor and state policymakers on creating policies to help disabled youth transition into higher education and workplace environments as a member of the CAPE-Youth Working Group (Center for State Governments). Her work in both science and policy has been recognized by the NIH/NINDS, Cochlear Americas, and the American Association for People With Disabilities. Her story and advocacy efforts have also been featured in international news coverage from Teen Vogue and the Washington Post. In her free time, she enjoys running, composing piano music, and watching figure skating.  

Aubrianna Wilson – Be A Hero Fund

Aubrianna Wilson (she/her) will spend the Summer of 2022 interning at Be A Hero Fund. She is a rising senior at Middlebury College studying neuroscience, global health, and disability studies. Aubrianna’s lived wisdom stems from her intersectional experiences as a disabled, biracial Asian-American, first-generation activist, advocate, and ally. She radiates radical care for herself, those she cares for, and the communities she shares space with.  

Aubrianna’s passion for disability justice, inclusion, and accessibility leads her to actively work towards dismantling systems of power and privilege within Middlebury’s institution. She loves helping her peers learn (serving as a Chemistry Laboratory Teaching Assistant and a Calculus Grader) and have equitable access to education. She has supported student survivors at Middlebury as an advocate on the 24/7 crisis hotline and the Director of the Student Government Association’s Relationship and Sexual Respect Committee. As the student representative on the Advisory Group on Disability, Access, and Inclusion, an executive board member on the Concerned Students of Middlebury, and the sole senator for her junior class on the SGA, Aubrianna has been instrumental in uplifting underrepresented voices and implementing inclusive community practices through anti-ableism and anti-racism projects. 

Aubrianna received the Williams-Hutchins Health Equity Award from the Centers for Disease Control for her exceptional work as an Undergraduate Public Health Scholar in the MCHC/RISE-UP program. Ultimately, Aubrianna intends to pursue an MD/PhD in Health Policy in order to center the needs of those most impacted in healthcare. As a physician-advocate, Aubrianna aims to dismantle harmful barriers to access and create bridges to trauma-informed and patient-centered care. 

Brian Scholte – The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Brian Scholte (he/him) will spend the Summer of 2022 interning at The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Brian is a first generation American and United States Air Force Veteran whose academic and vocational passions center around the intersection of education, psychology, and mental health. Upon separating from the Air Force in 2017, he earned a Bachelor of Science with Distinction in Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Brian is passionate about applying science and education for social good. Upon his graduation, Brian was accepted into New York University’s Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness program, where he earned his Master of Arts degree in May 2022. 

While serving as the Director of Communications for NYU’s Student Veterans of America chapter, Brian piloted NYU’s inaugural Veteran Mentorship Program where he and other student veterans served as a bridge between incoming student veterans, military-connected dependents, and the NYU student body, faculty, and staff. Through three years of volunteering with America Reads-America Counts, Brian gained exposure to the educational system working as a teacher, tutor, and mental health advocate. He has also worked as an Academic and Career Counseling Intern at Fordham University. Brian finds meaning in helping bring people together to build more resilient lives, and plans to pursue a PhD in Counseling Psychology. His goal is to ensure that students and military-connected students achieve their greatest potential by eliminating all barriers to success.

Britney Taylor – T-Mobile

Britney Taylor (she/her) will spend the Summer of 2022 interning at T-Mobile. Coming from a little bit of everywhere, eventually landing in New York City, Britney is an Urban Studies graduate student at CUNY School of Labor & Urban Studies, longing to learn about cities, the people inside them, and the problems they face. Learning about disability comes naturally to her, as she’s had a visual disability my entire life, placing me on a lifelong path towards disability advocacy and justice, particularly around creating more accessible cities. Starting her college journey at age 15, she received an AA from Pierce College in 2017, and earned a BA in English from Western Washington University 2019. She’s passionate about the serious: disability rights for the present and accessibility for the future, and the not so serious: boba tea and crocheting.

Brooke Evans – Federal housing and homelessness policy initiatives

Brooke Evans (she/her) will spend Summer 2022 working to advance federal housing and homelessness policy initiatives while interning with a leading team headquartered in Washington DC.

Brooke A. Evans is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison where she earned her undergraduate degree as a homeless and unaccompanied youth from a first-generation, low-income, non-traditional, independent, disabled, and transfer student background. Brooke is a nationally known activist and advocate for basic needs security, socioeconomic well-being, and affordable and accessible higher education. She has experience in organizing, government, analysis, research, authorship, and public speaking. Brooke has contributed policy on select issues for Secretary Julián Castro’s 2020 presidential campaign, culminating in the first comprehensive presidential platform to make ending homelessness — including basic needs instability in higher education — a primary campaign commitment drafted hand-in-hand with Americans navigating homelessness, eviction, and housing instability. She is a particular proponent of bridging the divide between constituency and policy and affirms unequivocally that housing is a human right.

Emily “Em” Eagle – Federal Communications Commission

Emily “Em” Eagle (she/her) will spend Summer 2022 interning at the Federal Communications Commission. Em is passionate about Disability Rights. Em graduated from University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Theology. In 2019, Em interned for the US Department of State’s International Disability Rights team. During this internship, Em researched and drafted both decisions for 801c visa applications and policy plans for priority countries in order to promote inclusion and equity for people with disabilities. As an undergraduate, she was heavily involved in disability advocacy on campus. Em sought to normalize discussions about disability and raise awareness about how it intersects with other identities. Now as a law student, she continues this advocacy at University of Texas School of Law through pro bono work and as a part of the Texas Law Disability Alliance. In her free time, Em likes lifting weights and knitting.

Fayza Jaleel – U.S. Department of Human and Health Services’ Administration on Community Living

Fayza Jaleel (she/her) will spend Summer 2022 interning at the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services’ Administration on Community Living. Fayza is a rising junior at Wellesley College majoring in Anthropology interested in both medicine and disability advocacy. Her specific interests in disability rights  stem from the different experiences she has had navigating her disabled identity in both India and the US. On campus, she is an active member of Students for an Accessible Wellesley, Al-Muslimat, and Wellesley’s Boston Healthcare for the Homeless chapter. She also researches dystonia amongst people with CP. She is especially interested in the intersection between healthcare, ableism and immigration, especially amongst refugees and other non-native English speaking women and gender minorities. In addition to her interests in disability advocacy and medicine, Fayza is also an avid rock enthusiast in both the geological and musical sense.

Jacob “Jack” Reeves – Office of Congressman Steny Hoyer

Jacob “Jack” Reeves (he/him) will spend Summer 2022 interning for the Office of Congressman Steny Hoyer. After a religiously motivated hate crime in his hometown took a friend’s life in 2014, Jack embarked on a mission to increase religious literacy and intercultural competence across the Kansas City metropolitan area that raised him. Emerging as an interfaith organizer and multicultural community builder, Jack served on the board of the Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance. Jack’s interest in the national and global implications of pluralism in a profoundly diverse nation, countering violent extremism, and promoting human security within and across borders led him to Washington, D.C., where he studies international affairs with a security policy concentration at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and interns at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Prior to beginning his government service, Jack served as president of the George Washington University Interfaith Council, interned at the International Relations Council in Kansas City, and worked in the education and interpretation department at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City’s internationally renowned art museum — in each role, convening communities around cultural themes in pursuit of social change. He co-founded and currently serves as vice president of Out in International Affairs, the Elliott School’s organization to connect and empower LGBTQ+ students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Committed to advancing human rights and human flourishing, Jack aspires to a career of government service. 

Jazmin Barajas – U.S. Access Board

Jazmin Barajas (she/her) will spend Summer 2022 interning at the U.S. Access Board. Jazmin is a Southern California native and a first generation American with a passion for bringing accessibility to the tech world. She is a student at the University of San Diego studying International Relations and Computer Science. In 2018, Jazmin co-founded the Alliance of Disability Advocates, a student-led organization to support University of San Diego students with disabilities, and earned a three hundred thousand dollar grant for the organization to address the accessibility priorities of this student population. She is excited to enter the workforce with skills to help organizations prioritize accessibility through their technology. Previously, Jazmin completed three internships as a research assistant with the Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force. She also works as an IT Specialist for ACES Autism Center and as a QA Accessibility Engineer at Warner Media HBO Max. Jazmin loves learning new languages, including different coding platforms and American Sign Language.

Justin Ramirez – Human Rights Campaign

Justin Ramirez (he/him) will spend Summer 2022 interning at the Human Rights Campaign. Justin is a 22-year-old Southern Californian. He is currently a rising senior at Chico State University, majoring in Sociology. Majoring in Sociology has allowed him to dive deeper into the development, structure, and functioning of human society. However, it wasn’t until college that Justin found out he had dyslexia and dyscalculia. Along with coming out, this sparked his interest in advocacy, equality, and all people’s rights. Through this program, Justin hopes to educate and develop himself. He is passionate about human’s right to be themselves. He is looking to pursue a career in advocacy after college, hoping to create LGBTQ+ and disability safe spaces in all lines of work and education.

Kay (Mikayla) Heston – District of Columbia Office of Disability Rights

Mikayla (Kay) Heston (they/them) will spend Summer 2022 interning at the District of Columbia Office of Disability Rights. Kay is from Boring, Oregon, and is studying Kinesiology at Oregon State University (OSU). Kay hopes to eventually receive a PhD in Rehabilitation Science and open a clinic to assist people with disabilities to help them become more independent. Helping people with disabilities is their passion. 

Kay’s first experience with disability advocacy was in high school speech and debate. In 2014, Kay began doing Congressional Debates in their speech and debate program, where they wrote a bill about disabilities and LGBTQ+ hate crime prevention. Kay’s bill received fourth place at their first competition. After graduating high school, Kay began working on research in the OSU Children with Disabilities Lab, which focuses on independent and confident movement for children with disabilities. While there, they designed a playground for infants with disabilities which was influenced by the social model of disability. As a coping mechanism during the pandemic, Kay embraced their artistic abilities and began taking art classes at their local community college. Kay hopes to one day use their art skills to create a graphic novel in which they visually depict cerebral palsy and its effects on their body.

Ken Sugathan – National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

Ken Sugathan (he/him) will spend Summer 2022 interning at the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities. Ken is a current student at University of Delaware in the Career and Life Studies Certificate program. At the University of Delaware, Ken is a part of his campus’ DREAM Chapter Program Planning Committee, and has interned for the Mind and Movement program. He is also involved in the U Dance Club and has been part of several other campus life programs focused on self and community advocacy and community integration for people with disabilities. Ken has a strong passion for serving the intellectual and developmental disabilities community, with a focus on ensuring they can live and participate independently in their communities, access inclusive education, and addressing subminimum wage and employment for people with disabilities. Ken is looking forward to learning more about working in policy this summer.

Kristen Lewellen – U.S. Department of Energy

Kristen Lewellen (she/her) will spend Summer 2022 interning at the U.S. Department of Energy. Kristen is a rising Senior studying Business Information Technology with a concentration in Cybersecurity at Virginia Tech. She also has a minor in Human-Computer Interaction which focuses on the design of technology along with the impact media has on society. As the Editor-in-Chief of Virginia Tech’s yearbook, the Bugle, Kristen has an interest in multimedia journalism, graphic design, and photography. She is also part of the national service sorority, Omega Phi Alpha, where she works to serve the university community, members of the sorority, and nations of the world. With the help of her sorority sisters, Kristen advocates for those with invisible disabilities on her university’s campus. After graduation she hopes to work for a government agency in Washington D.C. as an Information Technology Specialist or as a Cybersecurity Analyst. 

Michael Besler – National Disability Rights Network

Michael Besler (he/him) will spend the Summer of 2022 interning at National Disability Rights Network. He is a rising junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he is pursuing a Psychology degree with a minor in Media and Cinema Studies. Michael’s long term goal is to become a Clinical Psychologist. He is a strong advocate for equal education for all students no matter their disabilities. In the summer of 2021, Michael became a head Camp Counselor at Camp Miniwanca where he led the staff to become more inclusive and understanding of all children no matter their age, race, disability, or gender. He is passionate about making a difference for people with disabilities who fall through the cracks, and he is excited to spend the next few months gaining policy and research experience to help him do this.

Paula Morales – National Disability Rights Network

Paula Morales (she/they) will spend the Summer of 2022 interning at the National Disability Rights Network. Paula is a Social Work Master’s Degree candidate for the year 2022. As queer immigrant from Colombia who first-hand experienced the challenges of navigating American systems, they have become passionate in understanding the social impact that people’s intersectional identities have. Since the beginning of their graduate studies, they have been working in different research studies that are focused on bridging the gaps in healthcare that Latinx families with children with intellectual and developmental disability labels face. In August of 2021 they started the long-trainee program in the ACT LEND program (Autism Consortium of Texas, Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities). Their goal after graduation is to incorporate macro practice and advocacy into the micro practice of social work building from a person-centered, strengths-based framework. 

Sandra Conley – The Kelsey

Sandra Conley (she/her) will spend the Summer of 2022 interning at The Kelsey. Sandra recently graduated with her Master’s of Health and Human Services, and holds an MBA and a Bachelors of Occupational Therapy. Most of her paid career experiences have been focused in customer service, and she is currently pivoting her career to focus on racial injustice, disability discrimination, and housing issues. For 7 years, she has volunteered at the Center for Fair Housing of Mobile (HUD), where she assessed and investigated various apartment complexes for accessibility and fair housing compliance. As a person with a lower extremity amputation and a degenerative joint disease, issues of accessible and fair housing are personally and professionally important to her.

Sandra also has many personal experiences of being her own advocate in the face of interpersonal and structural racism, ableism, and other forms of oppression. These drive her personal desire to work on social justice issues. She has adamantly and effectively advocated for her needs and rights with federal and local governments, educational institutions (from when she was 11 years old through her secondary education experiences), and with medical professionals. Sandra’s career goal is to create an organization that will assist people with disabilities in becoming self-advocates and entrepreneurs. She is excited to bring her passion, life experiences, and compassion for others to her work at The Kelsey. 

Sheila Xu – Smart Jobs, LLC

Sheila Xu (she/her) will spend the Summer of 2022 interning at Smart Jobs, LLC. As an oral and signing Deaf woman, Sheila is committed to breaking down barriers for the marginalized deaf communities in the U.S. and abroad. Sheila’s mission is the culmination of her past endeavors: teaching American Sign Language (ASL) at a university in Venice, Italy; and conducting Fulbright research on deaf Italian entrepreneurs based on her pioneering MIT thesis “The Emergence of a Deaf Economy.” Inspired by her eclectic experiences, she founded her consulting business to provide strategies for deaf-owned businesses to communicate the value of their brands in English and ASL. After graduate school, Sheila aims to establish a robust public-private partnership between the public and private sector with the goal of creating equitable and economic opportunities for the deaf communities.

Sheila graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Humanities and Science, and is currently pursuing dual Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees at Harvard University and the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania.

Shruti Rajkumar – National Public Radio

Shruti Rajkumar (she/they) will spend the Summer of 2022 interning at National Public Radio. Shruti is a writer, activist, and recent graduate of Emerson College where she majored in journalism. During their time in college, they were involved in intersectional advocacy work through leadership positions such as the President of Access: Student Disability Union, the Accessibility Senator for Protesting Oppression With Educational Reform (POWER), and the Dean’s Fellow for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Shruti co-organized a student of color protest, an advocacy project, and three email campaigns calling for disability and racial equity, which resulted in continuous conversations and actions surrounding these topics on campus. 

After observing the way that the media has historically reported on marginalized communities and reflecting on their own identities, Shruti developed a passion for social justice reporting with a focus on the intersection of race and disability, and enjoys exploring underrepresented stories and intersectionality. In the past, she has interned at AsAmNews, where she reported on the intersection of disability and Asian American identity. Though she aspires to pursue a career in journalism and shed light on intersectional marginalized voices, Shruti also hopes to continue working directly within her communities. Currently, they are spearheading the newly formed advocacy committee at The Asian Americans With Disabilities Initiative, as well as working with Massachusetts Jobs With Justice.

Súeli Gwiazdowski – U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy

Súeli B. Gwiazdowski (she/they) will spend Summer of 2022 interning at the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). Súeli is a rising Senior at Whitman College where they are majoring in Rhetoric, Writing, and Public Discourse. Born and raised in San Diego, California, and as a Brazilian-American, Súeli is intimately familiar with the educational disparities common across borderlands. Her experiences as a disabled student, as a first-generation working-class college student, and as a previous English Language Learner, inspired her desire to pursue a career within the realm of education, law, and policy. In the summer of 2021, Súeli was a legal intern at the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Their time working with attorneys on a number of OCR investigations, interviews, and mediations (FRBPs) solidified her interest in law. She is especially interested in the implications that international politics have on the educational experiences and outcomes of migrant children receiving special education. 

Yardena Gerwin – U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions 

Yardena Gerwin (she/her) will spend Summer of 2022 interning for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP Committee). Yardena is a rising senior at Middlebury College and a born and raised New Yorker. She is  incredibly passionate about disability and gender equality activism and designed her own major of Disability Studies and Social Determinants of Health. Since 2015 she has served in numerous roles with the Girl Up campaign of the UN Foundation that works to develop leadership skills in girls worldwide. Yardena was a Lime Connect fellow in 2020 and in addition to being a BOLD scholar, she is currently a Middlebury Social Entrepreneur working on disability related research. In her spare time she enjoys cooking for friends and listening to auto-biographies on audiobook.

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