Interns on Capitol Hill

Note to Congress: 'Deafness 101' class now in session

Gallaudet students Tiasha Bera, Daniel Heidemeyer, and Matthew Fein helped educate congressional officials and staff on December 12 about working and hiring deaf and hard of hearing people by talking about their internship experience and educating them about deaf culture.

man stands at a podium with an ASL interpreter, surrounded by other people sitting at tables, all dressed up.

The Congressional Deaf Awareness Briefing was part of an internship the students took during the 2013 fall semester, in which they became known as "Team Stockman" for their work with Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.). They worked alongside Gallaudet master's in public administration interns who were supporting Stockman and Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) in a variety of ways.

"This internship allowed me to contribute my skills to the American political system," said Tiasha, who is from Potomac, Md. "Joining the Student Body Government at Gallaudet sparked my interest in the political system," she added. When she first arrived at Capitol Hill for the internship, she did routine tasks like sorting mail, but as she gained experience, she took on more responsibility- writing letters promoting legislation that Stockman supports, researching issues, and planning events such as the Deaf Awareness Briefing by Stockman, Takano, and congressmen Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), the latter a member of Gallaudet's Board of Trustees. Tiasha has served eight internships, and in the process discovered a passion for business, so she has decided to major in business administration. "It never hurts to start early, since internships help you explore what you like in a field," she said.

Daniel, a junior majoring in information technology, developed a database of schools for deaf students as part of his internship to help Stockman learn more about resources available for deaf Americans. Daniel, who is from Oberhausen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, moved to the United States to attend Gallaudet for exposure to sign language and deaf culture, as well as a quality education.

Takano recruited Matthew Fein to work for him to help him learn more about the deaf community and the needs of deaf Californians, since Matthew, a psychology major, is from Santa Clarita, Calif. He also handled correspondence for Takano, wrote articles in support of school counseling, and created a first-of-its-kind Deaf School Caucus that includes congressmen and senators.
"I was very shy when I first started the internship, but I learned how to speak up for myself and am more confident," Matthew said. "This experience opened my mind to other things, although I had to step out of my comfort zone."