NextGen Spotlight: Tasha Bolden
Willette Natasha Bolden – Tasha – navigated life for 40 years as an African American lesbian woman. However, when she also became a person with a disability, her professional story took a new and fulfilling path.
Tasha enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 24, and immediately knew it was the right fit. She became a Network Switching Systems Operator, moved up to serve as a Squad Leader for a Warrior Transition Battalion, and advanced to serve as a Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the Administrations section of South West Asia Cyber Center. While serving in this position in Kuwait, she was combat-injured, incurring a traumatic brain injury and several orthopedic injuries.
Accepting herself as a person with a disability and asking for any disability-related job accommodations was not something she was comfortable doing. Having the mindset of a soldier, Tasha was used to “pushing on and doing the job.” And while she certainly ‘did the job,’ it was a struggle.
Tasha has always had a life-long love of learning. While completing her Master’s degree in Cyber Security, Tasha learned about the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). Through WRP, Tasha heard about Disability:IN’s Mentorship Exchange and Talent Accelerator programs. She applied and was accepted into both programs as a NextGen Leader.
As a NextGen Leader, Tasha took part in the Talent Accelerator program during the 2018 Disability:IN Annual Conference. Tasha thought it would be “just another conference” that might offer her an opportunity to network for future job prospects. It didn’t take Tasha long to realize, though, that both the program and the conference were completely different from what she had expected. As an African-American lesbian with a disability, as well as a non-traditional student and a military veteran, she was concerned about being accepted.
However, it turned out that her fear was unfounded; she felt included from the beginning.
She describes her experience as “life changing.” During the Talent Accelerator program, Tasha learned a valuable lesson: “disability gifts you with a whole new ‘superpower’ – learning to embrace disability as part of who you are.”
Not only did she come to understand she no longer needed to ignore or hide her disabilities, she also learned about job accommodations and her right to request them. She came to understand that simple job accommodations like stand-up desks and flex time would enable her to better perform and learned to articulate her reasons for her requests.
As a result of the two-day networking and career readiness program at the conference, Tasha received four job offers. The whole experience empowered her to secure her current position with a federal contractor.
For other students with disabilities, Tasha says this: “Recognize your superpower as a person with a disability. Get involved with programs such as the WRP, the Mentorship Exchange, and the Talent Accelerator.”
With access to the Disability:IN NextGen Leaders Programs more students like Tasha can develop into great professional leaders. Each program is designed to support students and graduates as they navigate the professional world, and tackle challenges unique to people with disabilities in the workforce. Visit DisabilityIN.org for more information about the programs.
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