Internships provide more than career opportunities for youth with disabilities

July is Disability Pride Month. We are celebrating the disability community, made up of millions of diverse and talented individuals who have and continue to contribute so much.

Despite progress made in disability rights over the past 30 years, individual and institutional ableism still exist in the world. Disability remains highly stigmatized, and people with disabilities continue to be denied equal opportunity, access, and independence. Consequently, people with disabilities face barriers to self-sufficiency and have the highest poverty rates and the lowest workforce participation rates of any other demographic group in the nation.

At PYD, for us to actualize our goal – to create a world where young people with disabilities will be able to live with dignity and pride in who they are, and lead self-determined lives filled with purpose – it is critical to engage partners that share the same values and strive for fully inclusive organizations and communities. In the past year, PYD partnered with 32 businesses to provide 40 opportunities for mock interviews, guest lectures, job shadows & paid internships.

One of our partners, The Advocacy Magazine, hosted PYD intern, Said Yonis, in May and June earlier this year. The Advocacy Magazine is a grassroots advocacy platform publication focused on media representation and legislative advocacy for individuals with disabilities. Former PYD participant Andrew Carr is the magazine’s founder.

During the internship, Said was responsible for researching advocacy news and issues, writing articles, website management, and social media marketing strategy, implementation, and engagement. For many PYD youth, internships are often their first experience at a paid position providing real-world experiences in fields of their interest. However, Said is quick to point out that the skills he developed at The Advocacy Magazine are transferable to any workplace.

“I definitely developed new skills, which are initiative, collaboration, leadership, and receptiveness. I have learned that those are the skills that you need in a workplace or anywhere, even at an interview. I’ve learned the most important skill is communication. Talk with the person that you’re working with, your boss or anyone, ahead of time to avoid any confusion. Time management is also important. Always be there on time because if you’re late every time they wouldn’t want you working there. Getting there earlier is better than getting there later. Time management is a huge skill that you need in life.”

Moreover, Said reported that his internship experience bolstered his self-advocacy skills and confidence. He has a better understanding of what he needs to be successful in the workplace and how to express his needs to benefit himself and the employer.

“I really enjoyed this internship a lot because I had a hard time self-advocating and that was one of my challenges. Since being in the internship for a couple of months I’ve noticed that I’ve improved by asking for help when I needed it. The awesome part about PYD is they are there to support you and be there for you. I felt very comfortable talking with them and talking about my needs and my disabilities.”

Said’s perspective on the benefits of his experience is consistently echoed throughout our community and reflected in our program evaluations. Paid internships are transformational for PYD youth. In addition to the skill development and confidence gained through these experiences, internships empower youth to envision a multitude of pathways for their future.

Business partners like The Advocacy Magazine are not only hosting internships for individuals who have traditionally been underrepresented and underpaid in the workforce, but also pivotal for supporting youth with disabilities to lead lives filled with dignity, pride, and purpose. We are tremendously grateful for the commitment of our business partners to build a fully inclusive world and are continually in awe of the skills and accomplishments youth with disabilities bring to the workforce when fully included.

Join us this month – and beyond – in amplifying their stories and taking action to include disability in inclusion conversations.