Living and Learning in Mississippi

Emebet G Lema is a 2022 Fellow in the Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Civic Engagement. This program is sponsored by the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and is administered by the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston in partnership with Humanity and Inclusion (HI). The following blog post was written by guest author Emebet Girma.

Emebet G Lema headshot taken against blue background
Emebet G Lema

I am Emebet Girma, a Disability Inclusion Officer in Ethiopia. I am working on promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in various development agendas and supporting mainstream organizations to become more inclusive of persons with disabilities.

I really feel lucky to have been selected for this eye-opening Professional Fellows Program, which focuses on building the capacity of disability rights leaders on inclusive civic engagement.

I have learned a lot since my arrival at the University of Southern Mississippi Institute for Disability Studies on October 1. Here I was hosted for a month to explore different ways of civic leadership and experiences of persons with disabilities.

I am posing in front of the Welcome to Mississippi sign.
I am posing in front of the Welcome to Mississippi sign.

I am thrilled by and thankful that my host mentor Dr. Jerry Alliston and his family warmly welcomed me into their home. Sharing the different cultural experiences of the USA and Ethiopia in our daily activities has been so wonderful. Their easygoing behavior made me feel at home.

My first engagement at the University of Southern Mississippi was with staff and self-advocates with disabilities at the Institute for Disability Studies. Through that, I became familiar with the different focus areas of the Institute, including education, capacity building, community life, and more. I have also been introduced to different approaches and strategies for career development to help for students with disabilities transition from education to work. This is very helpful for the project I plan to implement back in my country. My project is about helping university students with disabilities have a job and a career by providing them with employability and life skills training.

I (top left) am meeting with a group of Institute for Disability Studies staff in a conference room and am presenting my fellowship project to them.
I (top left) am meeting with a group of Institute for Disability Studies staff in a conference room and am presenting my fellowship project to them.

I have attended different discussions, classes, and seminars on servant leadership and disability inclusion where I gained a thorough knowledge of how to be a good leader to bring about change in the field of disability inclusion.

I have also been honored to meet different professionals at the Institute and discuss their work and how it can influence my planned project. I participated in different courses focusing on social services for persons with and without disabilities. In these courses, I learned how the values, interests, skills, and experiences affect our future goals, and the possible ways to work on these values as leaders.

I presented my project to the staff at the Institute and received constructive feedback from them. One part of the feedback was about ensuring technology accessibility for students with disabilities in my project. I received an orientation on the types of accessible technologies students with disabilities should be acquainted with to gain employment and lead an independent life.

I have received tremendous support from my mentor to refine my project to a better, workable stage. The mentorship has helped me get new information and resources and enabled me to think of practical working methods for effective project plan development and implementation.

In Mississippi, I took part in different cultural events, including attending a volleyball game, Native American cultural events, and a tour of the local area. The tour included grocery stores and shops. The grocery stores and shopping area were accessible for people with and without disabilities.

I am attending a Native American cultural event at the University of Southern Mississippi.
I am attending a Native American cultural event at the University of Southern Mississippi.

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The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in school, work, health care and community activities.

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Community Inclusion

The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in school, work, health care and community activities.