Living and Learning in the Nation’s Capital: My Internship at UCP National

(Image Description: A 21 year old woman with short, dark hair looking in the distance.)  


When I first signed up for an academic internship program in Washington, DC through my college (University of California- San Diego), I had no idea that I was about to embark on the most rewarding and altering experience of my life. I found out about United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) through the University of California’s internship leads. As an aspiring physician who is focused on helping underserved populations and understanding health policy, I was immediately drawn to UCP’s commitment to advancing and supporting individuals with disabilities through public policy and advocacy.

Each day I learn something new at UCP, stepping out of my comfort zone and reaching my potential, as a future patient advocate. On my first day, I wrote a blog post about an important Supreme Court case that would influence the future of education for individuals with disabilities for years to come. I was somewhat anxious because writing was not one of my areas of expertise; however, my co-workers encouraged and guided me throughout the process. I published my first blog post with confidence, marking just one of the many I would write during my internship.

Through UCP, I also had the opportunity to see the political process in action. I attended and took notes at a press conference which was held by several Members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol. As my eyes opened to the numerous possibilities behind health policy, I knew that I was part of something real. This strengthened my resolve for improving the public health of our country, and gave me the courage to continue putting my passions into action.

One of the challenges that I experienced was that I was completely new to the subject material and how to approach relevant issues because I did not have prior exposure to working so closely for a nonprofit that advocates for individuals with disabilities. I found out that I had to ask questions. At first I thought this would reflect negatively on my abilities, but then I saw that it was extremely necessary in order for me to adequately do my part in the organization. Though you may feel scared or shy, it is important to expose your weaker areas and allow for personal growth. This will only serve you well as you broaden your mindset and enable yourself to become a competent advocate for others.

If you are passionate about advocating for individuals with disabilities, advancing public policy to serve the greater good, or just doing incredibly meaningful work, I highly recommend the UCP internship. Not only will you play a key role in furthering rights for individuals with disabilities, you will learn and grow as a person the whole way through. I have gained a new sense of empowerment thanks to UCP, and in the future I want to continue enacting the change I wish to see in the way of public policy.

If you are interested in applying for an internship at UCP, you can find out more details here.

Tanya Kantak is a winter intern at United Cerebral Palsy. She is a senior at the University of California, San Diego, where she is pursuing a major in Physiology and Neuroscience along with a minor in Sociology. Some of her hobbies include reading, walking, and listening to alternative rock.