The Army, along with five federal employees and interns, received the 2017 Judith C. Gilliom Award during the annual Workforce Recruitment Program awards ceremony and networking event at the U.S. Access Board here Thursday.
The Workforce Recruitment Program connects college students and recent graduates who have disabilities with federal sector employers for the opportunity to participate in paid internships. The Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity manages the Defense Department's participation in the WRP.
Warren Whitlock, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for diversity and leadership, accepted the 2017 Judith C. Gilliom Component Award of the Year on behalf of the Army’s commitment to individuals with disabilities.
“It feels great. It’s good to be recognized for the work we do to help advance opportunities for people with disabilities,” Whitlock said. “It’s also emblematic of the Army’s commitment to ensuring there is fairness, equality and opportunity for everyone.”
Camerron Barlow, a WRP intern with the Defense Contract Management Agency, said he was ecstatic to receive the award.
“It’s quite surreal,” he said. “Being here in Washington, D.C., where all the history is. It’s quite [an honor].”
Life Changing Opportunities
Barlow said he wouldn’t be where he is today without the WRP. “There were job fairs I went to because I was part of the WRP. The opportunities it created for me are life changing. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the WRP,” he said. Barlow said he recommends the internship program to fellow college students and that he loves how his fellow employees don’t see his disability but see him as a fellow employee. “There was no difference from the beginning. As soon as I stepped into the room, I was Camerron Barlow, not Camerron Barlow with a disability.”
The other 2017 award recipients were Dominica Dunston, Defense Human Resource Activity, WRP recipient; Joanne Hamilton, Defense Contract Audit Agency, WRP recipient; and Angela Love, Army, WRP coordinator.
Michael Cowley earned the inaugural 2017 WRP Recruiter of the year award. He has been a recruiter for Defense Logistics Agency for 13 years and has recruited more than 130 interns in support of the WRP. More than 50 of the interns have transitioned to become permanent employees in the federal workforce.
For more than 20 years, the WRP has been advancing employment opportunities for college students and recent graduates with disabilities. The WRP is a federal recruitment and referral program that connects federal sector employers nationwide and around the globe with college students and recent graduates with disabilities for summer internships and permanent jobs.
In 2017, the WRP database contained profiles of more than 1,800 job candidates from nearly every state and represented more than 115 colleges and universities nationwide, representing all academic backgrounds. WRP participants serve nationwide and around the globe, including Europe and South Korea.
“This has been a great pipeline for the DoD,” said Clarence Johnson, director of the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity. “It’s a program where managers get an opportunity to see what a person with a disability can really bring to the workforce. What folks with disabilities can do is amazing. The nation really needs to catch up as far as tapping the potential of people with disabilities because they’ve got great things to contribute.”
“If you don’t have a program like this, significant members of our society are not mainstreamed; they’re on the fringes and that’s not what this country is about,” Whitlock said. “This country is about opportunities for all. So it’s good to be able to live the intent of the words of the Constitution.”
The Judith C. Gilliom Awards
Since 2009, the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity staff have presented the Judith C. Gilliom WRP awards to participants who exemplify the professional attributes promoted by the WRP and make an impact on their agency or component during their tenure, The awards honor the legacy and advocacy of Gilliom, who served as the DoD disability program manager for 25 years and was one of the founders of the WRP. She is represented as an exemplar in the Pentagon’s Defense Career Civilians of Distinction display.
“I personally worked with Judith Gilliom for eight years, and she was one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met,” Johnson said. “She was a very dedicated and professional federal worker with integrity and high work standards. In fact, I have a picture of her on my desk right now because every day, I look at her, and I’m inspired by her.”
Advice for the Awardees
Keynote speaker Andrea Walton, a WRP alumna, is now an Equal Opportunity Office specialist for the State Department.
She recommended to the awardees and WRP interns in attendance to “always be an intern no matter what level you are able to rise to throughout your career … being very eager to ask questions, the willingness to take on any sort of tasks, whether that’s a menial or a big time project, being passionate about whatever you’re doing, those are wonderful qualities I hope everyone possess at any level,” Walton said.
Walton credits her success to people who believed in her, helped set her up for success and empowered. She advised them that once they reached a level of influence to remember what it was like to be an intern and “think about being the boss, the manager, team lead you would like to have and be that for other people. Realize you were given an amazing opportunity from somebody else that believed in you and do that for somebody else,” she said.
Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Department of Defense website.