September 8, 2015 – During his 11-week college internship in Washington, DC this summer, Dominic Mondon-Poirier worked with the Easter Seals Office of Public Affairs, conducted research, participated in conferences, and attended an event at the White House. For all his opportunities, however, the Springfield resident said his most valuable experience was learning to navigate independent living in a new city.
“Even though it was hardly my first time away from home, it was my first time where I was completely on my own,” said 21-year-old Mondon-Poirier, a senior at Fitchburg State University. “It was the first time where I was responsible for finding my own housing, commuting to work on a daily basis and buying my own food with my own money. Having to do these things takes independence to a whole new level, in ways I couldn’t imagine before doing the internship this summer.”
Mondon-Poirier, who uses a wheelchair, has been an Easter Seals client since age 6. He received occupational therapy, became a camper and then a counselor at the Easter Seals summer camp and participated in the Youth Leadership Forum for five summers as a delegate and youth leader. In 2009, Mondon-Poirier was honored with the Team Hoyt Rising Star Award from Easter Seals as an emerging leader and a champion of equal opportunities for people with disabilities.
This year, Mondon-Poirier was selected as one of 15 young adults with disabilities nationwide to win a summer internship through a program of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). In addition to conducting research for autism services and veteran affairs, he attended the National Council for Independent Living (NCIL) annual conference where he met advocates for the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and participated in a peaceful protest against the high unemployment rate of people with disabilities.
In July, Mondon-Poirier accompanied Easter Seals board member Sandy Ho to the White House, where she accepted a Champion of Change Award for her efforts to empower young women through the Thrive program. As part of the event, Mondon-Poirier attended panel discussions and met with disability advocates including former baseball player Jim Abbott, who was born without a right hand, and American football fullback Derrick Coleman, who is legally deaf.
Mondon-Poirier is now benefiting from his increased self-confidence and independent living skills while living at a dorm at Fitchburg State, where he is majoring in History, Secondary Education. He is appreciative of the continuing support from Easter Seals and excited to continue on his professional path toward becoming a high school teacher.
“Easter Seals has always been there for me,” Mondon-Poirier said. “I’ve learned many new things, and I’ve taken home many new memories that will last a lifetime.”
Easter Seals President Kirk Joslin praised Mondon-Poirier for his commitment to advancing his own skills while raising awareness to better serve those with disabilities.
“I’ve enjoyed watching Dominic grow up and evolve into a leader,” Joslin said. “From the young boy I met 10 years ago who was teaching able-bodied camp counselors how to repair wheelchairs, to the young adult he is today making presentations to congressional staff, Dominic has always so well represented the Easter Seals mission of equal opportunities for people with disabilities to live, learn, work and play.”
About Easter Seals Massachusetts
Easter Seals Massachusetts provides services to ensure that children and adults with disabilities have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play. Nonprofit and nonsectarian, Easter Seals offers technological assistance, employment and training services, recreational activities, youth transition and leadership programs, veterans’ services, rehabilitation services and public awareness programs. For more information, call 800-244-2756 or go to www.EasterSealsMa.com