The CACTI Blog: Research at the Sonoran Center Prepared Me for a Career in Public Health

Sept. 28, 2023
Bi-racial girl with long dark curly hair wearing a black v-neck t-shirt

By Isabella Russell, 2022-2023 Interdisciplinary Approach to Disability in Professional Practice Intern 

While looking for an internship, I wanted to work for a non-profit organization that supports education and awareness. When I found the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities, I was excited that it is part of the University of Arizona. Having an internship connected to the University of Arizona was important to me because I wanted to represent the college I go to. Then, I learned that the Sonoran Center was part of the UCEDD network. UCEDD means University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and there are 67 in the USA. I did not know about the UCEDD system before my internship opportunity. I was pleased to find out I was going to be part of this nationwide organization. The people who work at the Sonoran Center were welcoming and happy to have me on the team.  

My first task was to do self-advocacy research in Spanish. I quickly learned the importance of self-advocacy. The project included creating a resource list that would be accessible and inclusive. Providing guidelines and advice for self-advocates helps them improve their lifestyle. Self-advocacy is when a person speaks up for themselves, so that person can tell other people what they want. Self-advocacy is important for people with disabilities because they have the same right to tell others about their needs. Everyone has their own life experiences. People with disabilities should have the chance to talk about their situation in their own words.  

Another part of the project included interviewing self-advocates to gain a deeper insight into their life experiences. I had the chance to meet with a self-advocate. She was nice and friendly to speak with. She discussed how she deals with healthcare and how she asks for help. It was a great experience to talk to her because I got a better understanding of who a self-advocate is. I am grateful that I met her because she taught me that I should not be afraid to ask for support.  

An additional project I worked on was finding services for refugees with disabilities. Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their homeland because of violence. Refugees have to navigate a new world and those with disabilities face unique obstacles. Disability is seen differently in various parts of the world. Some refugees aren’t aware of their disability or that they qualify for disability services. I did research to look for resources that refugees can easily understand. A challenge was getting these sources in multiple languages. Refugees come from many different parts of the world and a lot of them don’t understand English. It is important that refugees have services in their native language.  

Overall, I enjoyed my time at the Sonoran Center. I met so many people who changed how I view the world. I also met talented professionals who prepared me for my future. The research I have done has given me confidence in my abilities to provide good work. Most importantly, my internship let me be there for people with disabilities.   


The CACTI Blog features the voices of our interdisciplinary trainees and Community Advisory Council members as they highlight diverse images of people with disabilities and provide community information and advocacy on disability issues. Check Out The CACTI Blog