I’m a person who from the age of five, when I was first diagnosed with a cognitive disability, has worked hard to overcome the many obstacles in life. This isn’t to say that we all don’t have to overcome adversity in order to achieve our goals, but this was especially difficult for me as I had a very difficult time not only reading but understanding basic material. This impairment was not limited only to reading, as I also had problems speaking and issues with eye/hand coordination, both of which required extensive therapy throughout my youth.
Needless to say growing up I had self-doubt, as school was more of an obstacle than a challenge. I never dreamed that I would graduate from high school, let alone graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree. But, that’s exactly what I accomplished in 2007, and did so with honors (Sum Cum Laude) with my major in Human Resource Management from Park University in Parkville, Missouri. My professors at Park offered encouragement and guidance as I worked towards my goal. During the Spring 2006 semester, one of my business professors, Dr. John Jumara, suggested that I complete an internship in the public sector to make myself more marketable. I can’t thank him enough for guiding me through this process.
After conducting extensive research, I was able to locate an internship that began in Spring 2007, with the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy located in Washington, D.C. During this experience I conducted background research and developed the first draft for a training manual on Employing Individuals with Disabilities in the Pharmacy/Retail Sector.
I have to admit that this was a defining moment in my academic career as I was able to observe the wheels of government in motion and while the gears may turn slowly, they never stop moving. I witnessed the hard work put forth by the people in this organization, from the Assistant Secretary to the entry level employee. The organization was a model employer, not only for persons with disabilities but for everyone.
While completing this internship I learned of many different programs including the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) for students with disabilities. This program led me to another internship with the U.S. Department of Army Corps of Engineers in Kansas City, Missouri. During this internship I became a certified Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor for the Department of Defense.
I quickly discovered that if I wanted a career in public service, I needed an advantage over the competition, so I made the conscious decision to go back to Park University to complete a Master’s in Business Administration degree with a concentration in Finance. Once again I elected to participate in the WRP, and was selected as a Summer EEO intern with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Shortly afterwards I was selected for my current position, but this time it was a permanent position with the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration, working as a Benefits Advisor.
I can’t express what an honor it is to be able to serve our American workers by helping ensure they receive all the benefits they have worked for. In my position I’m responsible for providing technical information, guidance and assistance on the rights and benefits of individuals under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
Editor’s Note: The author, David Marshall is a former Workforce Recruitment Program intern. After completing his Master’s in Business Administration from Park University, Mr. Marshall was selected for his current position as a Benefits Advisor with the Employee Benefits Security Administration.