SDI’s Cari Ford Receives Helen Keller Internship!

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Starkloff Disability Institute staff held a celebratory lunch on behalf of Cari Ford in our downtown office on Wednesday, December 19. Cari received the Professional Learning and Leadership Internship from the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults. The internship is the result of a long year of hard work, negotiation and self-advocacy.

Cari’s relationship with SDI began in 2015 when she worked as a student intern as part of the UMSL Social Work program. She joined the Starkloff Career Academy in 2017 and graduated from the Fall 2017 Capstone Course. Soon after, she began volunteering at SDI and was then hired as a part-time receptionist in April 2018.

It was while volunteering with Starkloff that Cari first learned about the Helen Keller Center. With our help, she applied and was accepted, but putting together the funding and paperwork took 11 months. “It was frustrating not being able to make any commitments,” she admits. “I didn’t know what end was up half the time.”

Throughout the process, Starkloff Career Academy proved a valuable resource for Cari, offering her constructive feedback on her letters and emails, and helping her plan for various negotiations.

“Working with Starkloff gave me confidence,” Cari says. “I learned how to advocate for myself,” she continues. “Volunteering kept me productive and gave me the faith that I am ready for this internship. I’ve learned how to push for things I want while staying professional.”

Cari endured, and in November, she finally got her plane ticket for the trip to New York. She will be at the Center for 14 weeks to receive uniquely tailored training for the needs of deaf-blind individuals. After a brief break, she will begin a 13-week internship where she will use what she has learned to teach others.

“Now that I have the ticket in my hand, I’m excited but a little nervous,” Cari says. “It was so long in the coming, now the reality is hitting me, and I have things to do to get ready.” When asked if she is still confident she will be successful, Cari did not hesitate: “Oh yeah.”

Cari explains that her goal after the internship is to “get a job using the skills I will learn, either teaching or social work/rehab for the deaf-blind somewhere in the nation.”

When asked what lessons she has learned that she wants to pass on to others, Cari said “If you really want something, stick with it. Eventually it will come.”

Starkloff Disability Institute congratulates Cari on her huge accomplishment and wishes her all the best going forward.

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