This post is by Autism Speaks intern Jennifer DiChiara who is finishing her senior year of high school and will be attending Clemson University in the fall.
For the past month, instead of completing my senior year of high school in the classroom, I’ve been coming to Autism Speaks in New York City as part of my school’s internship program. This program is called ASPIRE and it is designed to give high school seniors the opportunity to gain a real-life perspective and work experience in a career that they one day aspire to enter. However, I took this opportunity to do something more than that. My older sister is 21 years old and has autism. Over the past seven years, I’ve been a part of my school’s Autism Speaks club and worked to raise awareness and money both inside and outside of my school. I wanted to be an intern at Autism Speaks because of the positive experience from serving my school’s Autism Speaks club and desire to continue to support Autism Speaks on a larger scale.
This month, I have been helping out in the Awareness and Events department of Autism Speaks. One of the things that I did was sort through pictures from Light It Up Blue, an awareness program developed by Autism Speaks. This part of my internship was very touching because it showed all of the friends and family members, like me, committed to supporting individuals with autism. So many people decked out their homes, bodies, offices, restaurants, cars, universities etc. with blue. I also saw how big Autism Speaks is and how far they are able to reach out. Over 3,000 structures, including the Empire State Building, lit up blue along with homes scattered throughout the globe to raise awareness. I wish I could see the blue lights from space and take a picture of the globe to see exactly how much of the world was blue on April 2.
Another item that I was able to learn about was how Autism Speaks works with professional sports and sporting events, such as the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks NASCAR race that took place in Dover, Delaware. Autism Speaks has also been involved in other sports leagues such as the MLB, NBA, and NFL through other fundraising events. It would be awesome if one day the World Cup or the Super Bowl would allow Autism Speaks to shine their light before kickoff and spread the word about autism.
While there are many projects that involve raising awareness, Autism Speaks also raises money through the various Walks that occur all over the country. I have been participating in the Westchester Fairfield Walk for seven years now. Each year I go around to all of my neighbors asking for donations and each year the amount of money raised continues to get larger and larger. I love going to the walk and spending time with people that have the same goals and concerns as me. So many people come out spirited in their own team’s apparel with the best attitude and energy I’ve ever seen. From the music to the food to the apparel it is such a nice day to celebrate and enjoy! There is so much work that goes into each and every walk by the staff at Autism Speaks and now that I have seen some of the work firsthand, I appreciate their efforts even more.
This past month has been very rewarding. I feel that I have done more here during my internship than a bake sale at school could. The best part about interning here was meeting all the many different people who are like me and want to change the world and are in the fight against autism.