My name is Jessica Schneider, and I am one of the summer interns for the Shai Project. I am from Kansas City and attend Emory University in Atlanta. I am very goal orientated and grew up my whole life thinking that I would become a doctor.
After taking a life changing global health class during the fall of my sophomore year I decided my passion was public health because I wanted to be able to solve health issues on the population level. My ultimate dream is to narrow the health disparities that exist in developing countries by creating programs and initiatives aimed at improving the healthcare and education systems. My passion grew to involve disability studies after becoming involved with an organization on campus called Best Buddies and after taking an eye-opening gender studies class. In this class we analyzed a term called intersectionality, which describes the overlapping categories such as race, gender, class, ethnicity, and ability by which people endure oppression. Both the global health and gender studies class offered me much more than knowledge; these classes provided me with a new ability. The ability to look at life with a new lens; both a much more appreciate and passionate lens.
I came to the Shai Project by an unlikely change of events, but I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to intern for this unique organization. This organization’s mission is what initially drew me to it because I had never heard of an organization doing similar programming. I think it is amazing to target a young age group like the Shai Project is doing because 5-8 years olds are at a very critical and influential time period in their lives and also hold great power to positively impact many people in the future.
My main project has been to create a workshop session focusing on the power of language. I believe that language is an important factor when it comes to discussing disability because it shapes our attitudes and perceptions. If we can teach kids about appropriate language, then hopefully this movement can become contagious and we can start abolishing words from our vocabulary like the R word.
Although the Shai Project is helping create awareness about different disabilities, this project is also emphasizing how everyone has so many similarities. This concept is so important for kids to understand so they grow up treating others, regardless of disability and ability, all the same. I have really enjoyed working with the Shai Project this summer because I have gained such valuable experience from working on a wide variety of projects, attending workshops and lectures, and adding more appreciation and passion to my growing lens of the world.