During grad school, summers can be a blessing—but only if you use them right. I was presented with a few internship opportunities last spring, and I decided to decline all of them in order to work on my own plans for my future.
I knew I was graduating in December and would be looking for full-time employment or possibly a PhD program. I decided to take a leap of faith, travel, and engage in as many events and experiences as possible.
My summer started off with a trip to Dublin, Rome, Florence, and Paris. The IBM People with Disabilities Award made it possible for me to attend the Web For All Conference, which is co-located with the World Wide Web (WWW) Conference every year. I was given the opportunity to present my work on accessible graphs, which won the Delegates Award for the Most Significant Accessibility Research. My next trip was to Mountain View, CA to attend the Google Scholar Retreat, which was a dream come true. As Google Scholars, we were introduced to the Google campus and activities that have truly changed the way I see computer science as a whole. My final trip was to Austin, TX to attend the Student Professional Development Workshop. This was funded by CMD-IT (Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT) and gave me an incredible opportunity to gain insight into developing a successful career, getting myself ready for technical as well as behavioral interviews, and looking past my disability.
Besides traveling, I took on other projects. My research on a jQuery plugin to create web accessible graphs was accepted at the Graphical Web Conference in Pittsburgh. I was also given the opportunity to volunteer at SC15 this November in Austin, TX.
I also planned a Hackathon (evohax.com) on Accessible Wearable Technologies. I started the renovation of SCI Video Blog (scivideoblog.com), which is a video blog to help people with spinal cord injuries, and I initiated a project with my university to map the campus for accessibility. I also developed free and accessible websites and promo videos for non-profit organizations of Philadelphia to push the concept of web accessibility in the local community. I was assigned leadership of a team of other Google scholars to initiate a nationwide initiative to foster an interest in computer science among middle school age children in our communities. I also won the Geek of the Year Award at the Philadelphia Geek Awards 2015.
I also enjoyed doing some gliding organized by Freedom Wings International, surfing organized by Life Rolls On, and paddle boarding organized by Bacharach, which are all daring activities for any C5 Quadriplegic like myself. I went waterskiing and got back to playing Quad Rugby regularly.