What I Did For My Summer Vacation -- A Blog By CCDC/Colorado College Fellow Chelsea Davenport.
Graduating college is fraught with nerves, melancholy, opportunity, empty bank accounts, pride, and perhaps most importantly, excitement. The transition from academia to the work force, however, is notorious for its challenges. Engaging in intellectually stimulating conversations for the pure enjoyment of learning and participating in activities as diverse as inner tube water polo and dance parties in the woods are irrefutably rewarding, but such habits do not necessarily help you pay rent, afford food other than instant mac & cheese, and thrive as an adult with all of the associated fiscal, emotional, and career-related responsibilities that adulthood connotes.
There also is a distinct difference between learning about a topic in a classroom and becoming enmeshed in a subject through hands-on experience in the work place. As a previous student at Colorado College (CC), I was able to learn through coursework that arguably had one of the largest components of field experience than that of any other undergraduate institution in the country. CC operates on the block plan--an innovative schedule that allows students the opportunity to delve deeply into a subject through three and a half week intervals. Student and faculty thus are able to go to Utah to collect their own specimens for a geology class, visit local prisons for a sociology course, or watch films at a campus in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for a developmental psychology course. These diverse experiential qualities foster exploration, flexibility, knowledge, creativity, diligence, and curiosity. The rigor of these classes and the speed at which information is covered in each course prepares students for high-stress environments that require efficient and effective work ethics.
The non-profit sector invariably involves a comparable level of dedication, perseverance, and rigor. It is complex, stimulating on an intellectual and personal level, and partially due to the relatively low pay, tends to attract individuals that are extremely passionate about what they do. I was drawn to the non-profit sector as I love working with people, learning creative techniques for addressing complex issues, and fighting for worthy causes. I wanted to immerse myself in important debates, learn about current controversial subjects, and advocate for change. I aspired to get others excited about becoming civically engaged and yearned to educate the public about topics for which I am passionate. Given that in-depth analyses are essential to the formation of effective approaches for catalyzing progressive change, I hoped to use my liberal arts education and specialization in psychology to consider issues on both a macrocosmic and microcosmic level. More personally, I hoped to gain insight into what field I would like to pursue in regards to a longer-term career.
Thanks to the Public Interest Fellowship Program at CC (a program that places CC students and recent alumna with local non-profits) and with the generous support of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), my transition from college to the work force has actually been rather smooth. Granted my diet is still often composed of "Hungry Man" dinners and fruit on the go, I feel fulfilled, challenged yet grounded, and as if I am growing at a very rapid rate. Many of these qualities are direct benefits of having the honor of working with CCDC. As an organization dedicated to ensuring equitable and affordable health care, durable medical equipment, accessible transportation, and the overall wellbeing of people with disabilities, CCDC has been an incredibly rewarding place to work. Established in 1990 and now considered to be among Colorado’s leading disability advocacy organizations, CCDC emphasizes empowerment and aims to facilitate clients in obtaining the necessary skills to become effective self-advocates.
Within merely a month’s time, I have had the opportunity to help write grants, organize events, edit letters, write blogs, create a calendar for our social media sites, and less exhilarating but of equal importance, stuff envelopes. I have met with several board members, worked with staff in office as well as offsite, and attended a tour at another local organization that deals with disability: Atlantis. One of the most tangible benefits of working with CCDC is having the opportunity to participate in their quarterly 6-week Advocacy Training Program. Individuals dedicated to learning more about disability culture and to helping advocate for people with disabilities gather from all over Colorado to attend our weekly meetings. Speakers from various local organizations that share our vision cover a myriad of topics: Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicaid/Medicare, the Affordable Care Act & Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), effective communication, policy review, Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP), and most importantly, how to help people with disabilities live, work, and play without barriers.
Serving as a summer fellow at CCDC has taught me a great deal, challenged me in new ways, and has invigorated my desire to serve within a helping profession. Whether it is an ardor to fight for independence, accessibility, and empowerment for people with physical disabilities, or enthusiasm to educate others about mental illness in the face of my own struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I have found overwhelming inspiration to work for disability rights and equal opportunity. Witnessing the effects of a society in which living standards frequently correlate with race and in which education is often reserved for those who can afford private schooling continues to remind me that it is not necessary to look very far to find causes for which to fight. One of my favorite pieces of advice I received from a professor at CC was “find what breaks your heart and dedicate your life to it”. CCDC has served a fabulous portal in this regard. It breaks me to watch society deny itself the benefits of enjoying the contributions of all people regardless of race, creed, or condition. While working with CCDC, I know that I am dedicating my time to something about which I am incredibly impassioned. Thank you to everyone who has helped bring this invaluable opportunity to fruition.
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