(Courtesy of Gallaudet University- Original Article Posted On July 4th)
Brandon Williams, ’14, has the distinction of being the first Gallaudet University student to intern for a Washington, D.C., Councilmember. Williams, an Andrew Foster Scholarship recipient who majored in social work, served as the Community and Business Affairs intern for Ward Five Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. It was important to Williams to find a position that fit his focus within the social work field, he said.
“I want to give back to deaf youth of color as a social worker,” Brandon Williams said.
Working alongside Councilmember McDuffie, Williams focused on neighborhoods surrounding Gallaudet, such as Trinidad, Ivy City and Eckington. He worked with ward Councilmembers to address issues including rental assistance, homelessness, education, and economic security. Ward Five has a high incidence of crime but is working to increase stability and security for its constituents with the goal of reducing incident numbers.
Williams was responsible for conducting extensive research on crime statistics for his assigned areas, particularly Brookland. He was so thorough in his reports that McDuffie included his research findings in a presentation to the Ward Five community last March. This research allowed the Metro Police Department to identify specific neighborhood blocks to more closely monitor for crime control after dark.
“This was the most important job I had,” Williams said.
Williams also presented some of his research to D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray at an open house event for the Committee on Government Relations.
The Councilmember’s office ensured access for Williams by providing an on-site interpreter for meetings, phone calls and other administrative tasks. It was a fast-paced work environment and demanded responsibility, diligence and accuracy from Williams, which he successfully delivered.
“From this experience, I learned never to be afraid to ask questions, because I get good feedback and become more resourceful,” Williams said, and he pointed out the importance of these traits for a career in social work.
Williams said it initially was overwhelming to digest so much information and become familiar with the range of services the Council offers, but he gained greater conviction that he belongs in this line of work.
This is particularly important to Williams, because after losing his hearing at the age of 12, he could not find many deaf role models of color to emulate. Raised in Arkansas in a working-class family, he said, “I did not have high expectations of myself until after I met Glenn Anderson [the first deaf Black person in the U.S. to earn a doctoral degree].”
After high school, Williams worked for UPS until he had saved enough funds to begin his undergraduate education at Gallaudet in 2011. As a result of his experiences, he said, he understands the hurdles that members of underrepresented communities in Ward Five face. That is why his long-term career goal is to help alleviate the pressures that come with being raised with little to no support system.
He hopes to enter law school after graduation and focus on advocacy for low-income deaf youth of color. He will be the keynote speaker at the Youth Luncheon on July 3rd during the National Association of the Deaf conference in Atlanta.