The National Leadership Program

Four summer fellows - two women and two men - standing outside the gates of the White House, which is in the background

Summer 2015 Fellows outside the White House following an event

The National Leadership Program is ideal for people who want to gain media, policy, communications and development skills and contacts while making a positive difference for people with disabilities. We are looking for creative, results-driven individuals who want to achieve breakthrough results while getting hands-on experience. The fellowship is for college and graduate students, as well as for people transitioning into the workforce for the first time or back into the workforce after a break.

The National Leadership Program has three cohorts of Fellows – in the fall, spring and summer – for a total of at least 24 Fellows. Our National Leadership Program enables young leaders to gain critical skills, contacts and experiences necessary to be accepted into graduate school or go directly into careers in public policy, media or advocacy.

Today only 65 percent of people with disabilities graduate high school and only seven percent complete college. For those lucky few who do complete college, only 53 percent of graduates with disabilities are currently employed as opposed to 84 percent of graduates with no disability. As a program that is fully accessible for people with disabilities and offers full-time in-house job coaching, skills development, networking opportunities, assistive technology and personal care support, our program has been designed to alleviate this situation.

This Fellowship is unpaid but Fellows are given a monthly transportation stipend and lunch is provided daily. Those unable to afford an unpaid Fellowship are invited to apply for a paid Harriet Tubman Fellowship. Tubman acquired traumatic brain injury when a slave owner hit her with a heavy metal weight leading to epileptic seizures and hypersomnia. Her work, while living as an individual with a disability, to free slaves and then for women’s suffrage is one of the great stories of how people with disabilities can help make a nation stronger and better. Tubam Fellows should apply for the National Leadership Program (directions below) but make note in their cover letter that they are applying for a Harriett Tubman Fellowship and explain how they will be able to advance diversity and intersectionality issues.

RespectAbility is an Equal Opportunity Employer and Affirmative Action employer. Persons with disabilities and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.

We’re Hiring a New Fellowship Director!

RespectAbility’s National Leadership Training Director will work directly with RespectAbility Fellows to provide the professional work experiences the Fellows need to advance in their careers while also advancing the mission of RespectAbility. Although Fellows report to assigned departments, the National Leadership Program Director will ensure that each Fellow has the resources and training needed to complete required tasks.

View the Full Job Description: National Leadership Program Director (PDF)

Winter 2016, Spring 2017 and Summer 2017 Fellowship Opportunities

Important Details for Applicants

  • Excellent communication and organizational skills are strongly preferred, and fellows should exhibit leadership skills to complete their own projects
  • Strong preference for college juniors and above
  • Commit for a minimum of nine weeks
  • Hours are 9-5, and fellows should be able to work at least 20 hours a week, though 40 hours per week is preferred
  • There is no tuition cost to do the fellowship, and fellows will be awarded $250 a month as a transportation reimbursement
  • The fellowship takes place in Rockville, Md. (office is a short distance from the White Flint Metro Station)
  • Your cover letter must explain why this fellowship in particular is of interest to you and what you “bring to the table.” You must discuss in your cover letter why you believe that you have the skills, focus and independent drive to make a positive difference in your time with us at RespectAbility.

Fill out the linked Google Doc Form and send your resume and cover letter to tonyak@respectabilityusa.org to apply for any of our National Leadership Program opportunities! Please note in your cover letter if you are applying for a Harriet Tubman Fellowship and explain how you will be able to advance diversity and intersectionality issues.  


Internships (assigned based on skill set)

  • Public Policy/Employment
  • Communications
  • Program Development/Fundraising
  • Faith Inclusion

Seven people standing and three in wheelchairs, posed, facing the camera and smiling

Summer 2015 fellows and staff with Jonathan Murray, creator of The Real World and Born This Way at DC’s premier of Born This Way

About Us: RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reshape the attitudes of American society so that people with disabilities can more fully participate in and contribute to society; and to empower people with disabilities to achieve as much of the American dream as their abilities and efforts permit.

RespectAbility provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetics. In addition to federal law requirements, RespectAbility complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation and training. RespectAbility expressly prohibits any form of workplace harassment based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, genetic information, disability, or veteran status.

Fill out the linked Google Doc Form and send your resume and cover letter to tonyak@respectabilityusa.org to apply for any of our National Leadership Program opportunities or internships! Please note in your cover letter if you are applying for a Harriett Tubman Fellowship and explain how you will be able to advance diversity and intersectionality issues.