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Job-finding program visiting USF

Putting together a competitive resume and an impressive cover letter for a first internship can be challenging. These challenges can be even more pronounced for students with disabilities, according to Robert Van Etten, spokesman for the Entry Point Program.

Entry Point is an internship placement program for disabled students majoring in science, technological, engineering and mathematical disciplines.

Through this program, students with disabilities apply for an internship position in their field and are placed with a company that best suits their needs.

Etten will be speaking about the program in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center from 5 to 7 tonight.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) started the program in 1997 with NASA as its only sponsor. It has grown to include eight NASA sites, IBM and the National Science Foundation, among others.

Because of his disabilities – dwarfism and hearing impairment – Etten understands the need for this program.

“AAAS knows that workers with disabilities are an untouched asset. This is why they have this program in place – to help them make the transition between the academic world and the real world,” Etten said.

According to Etten, students with disabilities should take advantage of this opportunity because they are being given a chance to test the waters with reputable companies and it looks good on their resumes.

Etten added that one advantage to this program is that students are not competing for one internship position, but for several in many different companies.

“The biggest complaint of students with disabilities is getting that first job,” Etten said. “This program makes it that much easier.”

Roberta Johnson, director of admissions and advising for the College of Engineering, said that it is the experience offered by the program that is most important.

“It’s crucial for all students to do internships during their years in school, but for disabled students, it is even more important,” Johnson said.

In addition to building confidence, students learn what to expect and what kind of negotiations they will need to make with potential employers, she said.

According to Johnson, students with disabilities often need to ask for certain accommodations, such as voice-activated computers or a certain amount of office space, to fulfill their jobs.After the information session, Etten will be helping individual students with the application process. He will also be speaking with students by appointment Wednesday morning.