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Summer 2017 Fellows standing or seated in wheelchairs, smiling and posing for the camera

Laka Mitiku Negassa, Policy Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Summer 2020

Laka Mitiku Negassa smiling headshot

Laka Mitiku Negassa

Laka Mitiku Negassa was a Policy Apprentice in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Negassa previously had the opportunity to be part of RespectAbility’s Summer 2019 Apprenticeship cohort. This experience opened her eyes more to the different public policy issues as well as health policy issues Americans with disabilities regularly encounter. This experience has enabled her to see and experience the kind of efforts required to have quality advocacy campaigns that are able to affect an issue and initiate solutions.

She had the incredible opportunity to speak at RespectAbility’s 2019 Capitol Hill Summit in a panel titled: Success Stories of Self Advocates. This experience allowed her to refine her communication skills, writing skills and most importantly enabled her to have a deep insight of the different policy issues Americans with disabilities come across with on a regular basis.

She was later part of RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Apprenticeship cohort on the Policy Team. She learned through webinars and policy meetings how and to what extent marginalized communities, such as the disability community, is negatively affected when a country undergoes an emergency such as the current pandemic, COVID-19. This experience highlights how pivotal it is to have access to quality and continual care. This experience at RespectAbility in the Policy Team is teaching her the significance of Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) such as employment and access to nutritious food have on the health of an individual and community.

A former student of health policy at George Washington University: Milken Institute School of Public Health, Negassa earned a Master’s degree in Public Health. Negassa is interested how health policy of a country is structured and affects marginalized communities such as the disability community, including access to health care and quality of care.

Born in Ethiopia, Negassa immigrated to the United States after completing her senior year of high school. She attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she earned a Bachelor of Science, with a major in biology and minor in psychology.

Negassa planned to study medicine and interned in neuroscience research labs during and after college. An accident changed the course of her career. While walking home from a job in Cleveland, Ohio, Negassa was struck by a snowplow and dragged nearly 90 feet along the road. The accident caused a traumatic brain injury, along with organ lacerations and broken bones, requiring major medical interventions. The recovery took nearly two years and she needed physical, occupational and speech therapies. While recovering, Negassa personally experienced the health disparities and healthcare inequities encountered by most disadvantaged groups, such as Black women and immigrants.

She interned in Maryland’s Division of Rehabilitation Services office where she fine-tuned her communication skills and first experienced working on issues affecting the disability community. During summer 2018, she interned at JBS International, a Bethesda consulting firm, where she summarized policy meetings and webinars on disability issues, gaining a deeper knowledge of the impact of health policies on the disability community.

In her free time, Negassa loves reading motivational books. She thoroughly enjoys baking and cooking for others.

Negassa wrote two pieces during the 2019 Summer Apprenticeship and contributed to a Maryland press release. Read it on our website:


RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact [email protected] for more information.



Meet the Author

Laka Mitiku Negassa

Laka Mitiku Negassa just finished her first year in the master’s program at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is interested in how health policy affects the disability community in terms of access to health care and quality of that care.

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