Writing and editing have been a huge part of my life for the past 11 years. As a College of Charleston undergrad sitting in various creative writing workshops, I dreamt of one day finding a job that would allow me to showcase my skills as an English major. During my senior year, the Center for Disability Services informed me of an opportunity that could enhance my chances for gainful employment as a legally blind graduate. The Workforce Recruitment Program was created by the U.S. Department of Labor with the sole purpose of connecting employers with students and recent college graduates with disabilities for permanent and temporary positions and seasonal internships. I realized that applying to be a WRP participant was the best decision I could make for my daughter’s and my future. It led me right through the castle doors of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District.
Even though the summer internship was temporary, knowing that I would be an actual federal employee for the Department of the Army meant a lot. My father, a Korean War veteran, always wanted me to follow in his footsteps and enlist. With my low visual acuity, I would never meet the physical health requirements. This internship was the next best thing.
While technically classified as an office automation assistant, I was tasked with a copyeditor’s dream to work on the second volume of the District’s history book that had been in the works for some time. With my background in proofreading and editing, a former internship at an independent publishing house, and my knowledge of Associated Press grammar usage and style, my resume showed that I possessed the skillset to get the 10 chapters ready for publishing.
The summer went by very quickly. I spent time mostly with the Operations team as well as Corporate Communications. I remember when I was taken around the District headquarters to meet everyone. Every time I mentioned my work on the history book, the response was something like “good luck.” It was clear people knew it had been a long road. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised. It was obvious the authors had put a lot of work into it, being actual historians, but for some reason, they had hit a roadblock. I say roadblock instead of writer’s block because the book was actually written in great detail, but needed a singular direction. The District felt that a set of fresh eyes would get it back on track. I had a great time working with people in all facets of the organization to collect photos, write captions and find information. The book actually labels Charleston as the “close knit district.” Through my many encounters with this new “family,” I learned just how true that was.
About three weeks before my WRP appointment was to end, I was told that there was a vacancy with the regulatory department in their administrative support. I was eligible for hire under Schedule A, a noncompetitive hiring authority for qualified people with disabilities. My supervisor gave me a great reference based on my education, experience, and work with the history book. Apparently, that is exactly what the Regulatory Division was needing, someone to take initiative and get the job done.
As of today, I am the new Regulatory Administrative Assistant; a full-time temporary employee! While I may have to operate differently than everyone else with my visual assistive technologies, it does not hinder the progression of my work. I am coming into my own with the new job, learning every day. According to my new supervisor, I “rock” after only two weeks! I have had a blast this summer attending a Change of Command, town halls and even getting invited to Washington, DC, for the 37th Annual Department of Defense Disability Awards Ceremony at the Pentagon for my participation in WRP. Those early days of in-processing spent getting my certifications and Common Access Card paid off. At the Pentagon, my CAC got me a visitor’s pass with no escort so I could walk around the premises freely. With my infectious personality, positive work ethic and a stronghold of patience, I believe that I can be a part of the Corps for years to come. My future is definitely bright. Thank goodness I brought my shades!