This summer, I had an incredible and unique experience interning virtually for the Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD). As a Communications intern, I worked with the Dissemination and Resource manager on AUCD’s promotional efforts by writing messaging for announcements and social media. I was also in charge of updating a social media contact list of AUCD’s vast regional and international network. I am grateful to have had an opportunity to intern for a national non-profit organization despite having to work remotely. I also was a participant of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) Disability Advocacy Certificate program. 

A color photo of Shirley standing in front of a brick wall.
Shirley Carrillo is a recent graduate from California State University-Los Angeles, from which she earned Bachelors Degrees in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Public Relations & Advertising, and French Language & Literature. She served as the AUCD Communications Intern for Summer 2020 while also earning her Disability Advocacy Certificate from the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).

This was an experience unlike any other. As a resident of Los Angeles, California, I worked in accordance to the 3-hour time difference in Washington, D.C. I had to coordinate my schedule to make sure I attended meetings on time. At first, the time difference was confusing, but it made me a better-organized intern by scheduling everything in Eastern Standard time.

I am a recent graduate from California State University Los Angeles. I earned two Bachelor’s Degrees in Mass Communication and French. My last semester of senior year, I took my first Disability Studies course, in which I was introduced to the disability civil rights movement and disability justice. At the end of this course, I recognized an emerging passion of mine to become a disability rights advocate. I decided to intern at AUCD because AUCD implements many initiatives involving disability policy and advocacy that I am interested in integrating within my career. 

The AUCD staff made efforts to get to know the interns this summer by inviting us to staff and department meetings. This made me feel welcomed, like I belonged as an actual staff member. I felt comfortable sharing my opinion by participating in meeting discussions because the environment at AUCD welcomed and appreciated feedback from different perspectives. 

I am also thankful for AUCD’s staff willingness to meet with me on separate occasions for an information coffee meeting. I connected with some staff members to learn about their career experiences and gain advice that has influenced me positively in relation to my future career prospects. I have an interest in pursuing international relations and international human rights to advocate enforcement on disability policies in other countries. I spoke to Siddarth Nagaraj, who gave me insightful advice on career areas in which I can pursue and potential graduate programs I can consider applying to. I connected with Jennifer Tuell to speak about online accessibility and creating accessible formats of written materials that comply with universal design. 

My experience working with my supervisor Anna Costalas was excellent throughout the entire internship. We accomplished a lot together because we maintained open communication. Anna and I created a supportive space during our weekly check-in meetings to catch up on our lives, update my tasks, and talk about my career interests by asking how she can help. 

Anna allowed me to contribute to the organization by suggesting ideas and listening to my feedback. She made me feel valued. I thank Anna for trusting me with this work and letting me demonstrate my potential. I am very proud of the work I did for the ADA30 campaign. Anna would send various announcements or events related to ADA30 that she wanted to promote on social media. So, I would compose messaging for it as well as gather stories to feature for this campaign. An extra task I worked on involved updating AUCD’s network contact list for social media. I had to research every single social media account of the UCEDDs & LENDs affiliated with AUCD. It seemed like an intimidating task at first, but I worked on this list consistently throughout my internship. This is another assignment I am pleased that I completed during my internship.

The past 3 months have gone by swiftly. I enjoyed all the work I did for AUCD. I’m proud to have been a part of their team during an important summer, in which we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I loved being immersed in promoting the disability initiatives and efforts of AUCD’s network. Overall, I learned that it’s possible to love the work that you do. I want to obtain a job that I’ll feel eager to attend and enjoy the work I’m doing because this internship felt like that for me. I am grateful for this opportunity to enhance my skills in communication while gaining more knowledge of disability policy and learning from staff members. I will carry this experience as a positive influence that will guide me to future opportunities.