Dana WashingtonWhen it comes to education and career aspirations, Dana Washington has always been motivated to succeed—due in large part to powerful role models. “I always had a strong support system,” she says, noting the circle of friends and family who encouraged her to pursue challenging coursework and academic-related activities. “As a person of color, I was also motivated by the increasing numbers of Black women who have been seeking higher education over the last decade. It really propelled me to seek a degree.”

That degree was a Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management, which Dana earned at Columbia Southern University in Orange Beach, Alabama. Following in the footsteps of her inspiring role models, she graduated Magma Cum Laude with a GPA of 3.92.

Dana lives with depression and dyscalculia, a learning disability that makes mathematical reasoning and computation difficult. During her senior year at Columbia Southern, she applied for support from the university’s Office of Disability Services and, in her interactions with its counselors, was encouraged to explore the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP).

Dana was intrigued and excited by the possibilities the program offered as a gateway to a position with the Federal Government, which she had previously found challenging to break into. “It had been difficult for me to even obtain a standard federal interview,” she says. “But thanks to the WRP and the special hiring authority used by my employer, I got a foot in the door with the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

The agency offered her a full-time position as an EEO Specialist / Training Coordinator. In that role, today she helps assess the organizational culture and manages diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility training and professional development opportunities for staff across the nation. The position aligns perfectly with one of Dana’s future career goals—to lead a learning and development division within a federal agency.

A devoted fan of the WRP, Dana was grateful for the support she received from WRP staff throughout the job search and interview process and encourages other students and recent graduates with disabilities to consider the program. “It’s a great decision,” she says, “because the WRP always has the student’s interest at heart.”

With a clear understanding of the power of role models and high expectations, Dana hopes her experiences may serve to motivate others to succeed, especially young people with learning disabilities. “My dream is to write children’s books to help African-American children who have the same disability as me,” she says. “They would be about a little girl and how she learns to navigate life’s challenges.”