If you or anyone else would have told me four years ago that I would be living, learning, and working in Washington, D.C., I would have shaken my head in disbelief. When I enrolled at Winston-Salem State University I had my life planned out. I knew that when I graduated I wanted to be a nurse anesthetist. My plan was to move back to my hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina and start my career at a local hospital. In the spring of 2008, I received my acceptance letter into the nursing program. Unfortunately that same semester I did not successfully pass Pharmacology and was dismissed from the program. Instead of applying again the following year and graduating a year later than I expected, I chose to explore other undergraduate majors and graduate with my class.
Rehabilitation studies helped me become sensitive to the needs of others who are physically or intellectually different. As a foundational degree, I believe it allows me to approach political service in a more compassionate and impartial manner.
Ralph Bunche was the first individual of color to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. As president of the Winston-Salem State Ralph Bunche Society, I encourage minority students to demonstrate interest in global affairs, to become internationally conscious and to stay connected to current political issues regardless of their field of undergraduate study. As an African American female, I would like to encourage more minority involvement in governmental activities and pending legislation, and bring awareness to various issues on hand that will impact lives.
The Society has given me many opportunities, including my first internship in the summer of 2009 with the United Negro College Fund Special Programs, Institute for International Public Policy. I also gained the opportunity of studying abroad in the summer of 2010 in Ghana and Benin. Being a member in the Society led me to my current internship with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Emerging Leaders Internship Program. The purpose of the program is to create a corps of trained, young leaders with the skills, outlook and contacts necessary to generate and sustain positive change in Washington, D.C., and local communities. I am also currently enrolled in George Washington University’s Semester in Washington Program. This program is giving me a combination of hands-on coursework and networking opportunities at some of the most famous addresses in the country.
The Emerging Leaders Internship Program placed me at the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor. I am hoping to get more students who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) involved in the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). This is an amazing program that I am passionate about, and I would like to raise awareness about it for the students who attend the underrepresented minority serving intuitions. I am also currently working on other projects and I am prepared to take action wherever I am needed. My personal goal is to build professional relationships that will foster growth and development.
Upon completion of my internship I would like to continue to work in the federal government. I am committed to working and promoting the ideals of public service and strengthening America. As a child my parents told me that “the only place you’ll find success before work is in the dictionary”. I value hard work, commitment and dedication. I entered Winston-Salem State University to learn in August 2007, and I will depart to serve on May 14, 2011. I am a proud product of my HBCU.
Amilca O’Conner is a Congressional Black Caucus Emerging Leaders intern with the Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. She is also a student at Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.