Taking Flight: Marissa's Career Path

[Marissa] I always imagined myself in a cubicle in the office of a widely known company typing up reports, and that is exactly where I am today. Growing up using computers throughout elementary and middle school, it was natural for me to want to have a career that involved computers. There was no need for anyone to push me in that direction, though it helps that this is a field that, as my parents say, pays the "big bucks."

How I got here is an interesting story. I knew I wanted to go to college at about the same time I set my goal to graduate high school. I have Cerebral Palsy, and until my senior year I was the only person in a wheelchair at my high school. I had a circle of really good friends. We were the kind of people who got along with everyone, but we weren't all alike.

In my junior year I began my journey with DO-IT. My geometry teacher, Cherie Smith, told me about this amazing opportunity, for which I owe her a lot. She told me the folks that make the DO-IT videos were looking for a student to feature in their next installment. I participated in the video then spoke on a DO-IT panel to inform math and science teachers about accommodations. After the panel, a DO-IT staff member approached me about joining the Summer Study Program, and I jumped at the chance. Summer Study was amazing. I got hands-on experience in college dorms, and with the newest technologies. More importantly, I made lifelong friendships. DO-IT really opened me up and gave me a positive view of college life.

My disability was not really a factor in the classroom. I am just like any other person with classes I preferred and others I disliked but completed to the best of my ability. I always put schoolwork before any other after school activities. In the computer lab I sat at an ADA station where the desk could be easily raised or lowered to accommodate my wheelchair. Although I type at an average 30+ wpm, I know I could still benefit from speech-to-text software if I took the time to look into acquiring it. I am eternally grateful for technologies like the computer. My hand would be forever aching if I didn't have access to one. It is my lifesaver, not to mention TIMEsaver!!!

When it came time for my high school graduation in 1999, the idea of going to college began to shine. At first, I was focused on getting an AA degree at a 2-year community college and transferring to a 4-year university. During my first year, I grew bored. I felt I wasn't getting anywhere taking the prerequisites for the Computer Information Server (CIS) program. I wanted to get my hands on a computer! That summer I ended up missing the deadline for financial aid, and my summer break ended up being closer to 2 years.

As the 2 year marker neared, my mom was urging me to return to school, and I wanted to as well. So I sought out a counselor at the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, (DVR) who helped me to rethink the path I wanted to take. I realized I enjoyed working with computer applications rather than trying to fix internal computer problems. I'm so glad I took the time to figure that out or I'd be getting up everyday absolutely hating my career. In January of 2002 I reentered the community college world excited about the new direction I was taking. I started back to school with 8 credits, but as I began to enjoy the things I was learning as each quarter progressed, I wanted to challenge myself with more until I was at or exceeding a full-time schedule.

After I returned to school, happy with my chosen career path, I experienced some great success. In the fall of 2003 one of my instructors approached me with the idea of applying to become a tutor for the BTECH (Business Technology) classes. I soon found myself among my peers helping them with any questions they needed answers to. I made the VP's list for academic achievement both Spring and Fall 2004. I also found an internship in the offices of a performing arts center. A friend of mine told me about the internship, which gave me good practical experience and taught me the value of networking through friends and family.

To fulfill my second internship requirement for graduation I worked with the DO-IT staff and was able to set up an internship with Amazon.com, that big-name company I had always pictured myself working for! At first I was excited to be working at the company I'd always dreamed of. But soon I realized that, although it was an excellent learning experience, it did not live up to my expectations. The job was fine, but it wasn't really me. Shortly after completing the internship at Amazon.com, in March of 2005, I graduated from community college with not just one but two degrees; in business management and administrative assistance in professional technical programs.

[Marissa, front row far left, with her FAA colleagues.] Employment was my obvious next step. All that schooling was definitely not going to waste. I worked my butt off to finish school so that paper means a lot to me and WILL get me somewhere in life. So I decided to contact the DO-IT staff again to work on my resume and get another internship going, this time with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Previously I'd never thought I'd want to work in government, for such a large, national agency. But the job I was doing at FAA surprised me, and I love it. When the internship ended they offered me a full time position, and now I work there, in a permanent position with benefits! This really is what I wanted.

As I said in my introduction, I've always pictured myself sitting in a cubicle of a widely known company, happy as a clam, utilizing my newly acquired skills as an administrative assistant, possibly climbing the ladder to office manager, and that is where I am today. Staying in touch with the DO-IT family, even after completing the Scholars program has allowed me to come to the staff for assistance in obtaining additional internships, getting help updating resumes, practicing interview skills and ultimately securing a great job.

I have been and always will be a BIG yet simple dreamer. "I'm not here to conquer the world, just to be happy and comfortably living in it".