Living My Best Life

Today is Disability Mentoring Day (DMD), where employer sponsors bring high school and college students in for a day of mentoring and job shadowing across the United States. At Bender, we have been a part of DMD since the beginning. This year, as a volunteer, we are expecting over 700 students engaging in job shadowing with 36 companies, across 44 locations in the Pittsburgh area. 

This important event makes a difference for both people with disabilities and employers, as connections are made, and networks are widened. AAPD offers many programs for people with disabilities to become engaged and informed, including DMD and their Summer Intern Program.

Over the course of my career I have been blessed to meet many talented young people with disabilities. But there have been only a few times when I have met someone and instantly knew that they had the right attitude to become future leaders in the disability community; Andrew is one of those people. After we met through the 2018 AAPD Summer Intern program, I knew he would be a great fit for my partners at DXC Technology. With leaders like Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Jo Mason, who are invested in developing a workforce inclusive of people with disabilities, I was sure that DXC would be a great fit for Andrew.

Living My Best Life

By Andrew Hart

I was selected from a pool of over 250 applicants to participate in the 2018 AAPD Summer Internship program along with 26 other students and recent graduates. My experience, overall, was incredibly rewarding. I learned some important lessons in perseverance and how to overcome conflict, while in the program. Through its myriad of professional development events, the AAPD internship ensured that I was well versed in any, and all professional opportunities which were available to me. It helped reverse some of the stigma I had allowed previous employers to place on my disability and allowed me to become more comfortable being disabled in the workplace. Ultimately, there is no denying that I would not be here in Virginia, living my best life if I had not participated in the internship program. For that I am, and will always be, forever grateful to AAPD.

I was first introduced to Joyce Bender when she presented to my class of fellow AAPD interns, over the summer.  She was presenting Bender Consulting Services, as well as other options for employment for those of us with disabilities, and she had us introduce ourselves by saying our name and what we wanted to do in our career. Around the room titles were announced, goals were shared, and everyone seemed to have been very set on what they wanted to do. Me? I simply said, “My name is Andrew Hart and after submitting my 48th job application last night, I just want to work!” It was in that moment, Joyce shared, that she knew she wanted to help me and decided to have me reach out to her after the presentation.

Joyce aligned me with a job opportunity with DXC. This job has entirely changed the course of my life, I have moved away from my home in California, one which I have resided in my entire life, and opened a door that I never thought would even appear in front of me. The obvious changes associated with relocating aside, the professional competencies and knowledge I have gained in just a few weeks at DXC have set me up for a lifetime career in the broad and diverse field of global marketing and communication.

If I were to offer advice to other early career professionals looking for their first career opportunity, it would have to be…do your best to understand the people you are around, because no matter what program you are in, what job you’re working in, or anything else – you must work with other people successfully. I think that it is very important for people from different backgrounds to take advantage of opportunities that, like the AAPD Summer Internship program, offer people with disabilities the chance to come together, learn about one another, and find common goals that those diverse backgrounds can help achieve. Not a lot of people with a disability (at least in my experience) know the vast amount of opportunities, programs, and organizations eager to help see them succeed and build the stable, secure, and safe lives that we all ultimately want. Organizations like AAPD and Bender Consulting Services help to bridge that gap.

We cannot spend our lives in bubbles, keeping us safe from things that challenge what we believe, we owe it to ourselves to embrace those challenges and engage in discourse and dialogue that will help us better understand one another. I worry that my fellow peers with disabilities are being kept sheltered, because we already live more challenging lives by default. However, I believe it should be the opposite; we are champions of overcoming adversity and we should pave the way for other groups of people to come together and fight for a country which fosters a life of thriving, not surviving, for all of its citizens.

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