By Laura Shinall
You’ve graduated from college! Woo hoo! Your friends and family are so excited! Everyone is telling you, “This is it!”, “Today begins the rest of your life!”, “You’re gonna miss homework once you get a taste of the real world!”, and “No more summer vacations for you!”
You’ve heard it all. Except there’s one problem…you can’t find a job. You can’t even get past the phone interview. Your resume looks good. You’re ready to take that first step and begin “the rest of your life,” but no one will hire you. They tell you it’s the economy—and it might be. They say you need more experience—and that might be true. They tell you that you’re just not the right fit—and sometimes that’s the case. But deep down you wonder, “Is it because I stutter?” All your fluent friends have found jobs—maybe not their “dream job,” but at least one company has told them “You’re worth it! You’re hired.” But you are still waiting for that phone to ring and for someone to say those words to you.
As a mother of a 2009 Elon University graduate who stutters, I’m all too familiar with this scenario. It’s heart wrenching to watch and even more painful to experience first-hand. One’s fluency, as those who are reading this article know, does not equate to one’s ability. But as my son told me, “Mom, if they have 100 qualified applicants and 99 of them are fluent, why would they want me?” So in this economy when it’s hard enough to land a job if you have all the necessary qualifications and tools, it’s even more difficult and, at times, feels down-right impossible to get hired if you stutter. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying; stuttering is NOT an excuse for unemployment.  I am, however, saying it can be an additional hurdle to overcome.
The good news is, there are options. 1) Continue your education and become more marketable. 2) Be willing to look outside your chosen field — be willing to wait tables or stock shelves in a grocery store. That shows initiative! 3) Become an entrepreneur and hire yourself! Show the world it missed out on a great hire!! But what you cannot do is allow yourself to believe you’re not good enough or that you’re not worthy of a meaningful career. And while you’ve just finished your education, it may be time to start educating others and in turn become your own best advocate.
This is where I’d like to see the stuttering community and its supporters come together. I’m confident we can find a way to reach out and help those who, although they may not be fluent, we know are capable!
Who among us is a business owner? Who among us knows business owners in our communities? Who among us is willing to mentor or counsel those graduates in our community who stutter and are actively seeking their first job? Who among us is willing to open a door for those who have so far faced nothing but disappointment and rejection? Who among us is willing to encourage and instill confidence in those who need it most? Sometimes our young people need more than just their parents to tell them they are talented, capable and NOT defined by their fluency or lack thereof.
As parents we want others to see in our children all the possibilities that we see. And when, time after time, our children are judged not by their gifts and talents but by their level of fluency, it’s painful. Our hearts break for them—our newly minted graduates.
This letter is a call to action! A call for those who understand what our young people are dealing with and are willing to step forward to help develop a program designed to match young people from the stuttering community with leaders in the business community. In Jane Fraser and others, I’ve witnessed firsthand the compassion and determination of those who stutter, those who know someone who stutters, and those who have made a commitment to be advocates for those who stutter. It’s a powerful group! 
Please join me as I seek to empower those who stutter by helping them find rewarding careers. Contact me if you would like to be a part of a network of support. The sooner we start, the sooner our graduates can start the rest of their lives!
You can contact Laura Shinall at