Lansing’s Xavier DeGroat said he feels like a new man — more confident, more knowledgeable and perhaps even a little famous.
The advocate and founder of the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation recently returned from a three-month internship at the White House. And while living on his own in Washington, D.C., wasn’t the easiest experience, DeGroat now feels ready to take on the world.
“I’m not the same Xavier I used to be,” DeGroat said, noting he received high praise for his work from President Donald Trump. “I feel great having been the first autistic White House intern.”
DeGroat wanted to learn more about the branches of government, and he always enjoyed reading about the White House and presidential history. He also thought the internship would help propel him forward in autism advocacy because he had opportunities to meet some of the nation’s leaders, including the president.
“It’s a dream come true, and a lot is coming out of it,” DeGroat said, having fielded calls from the likes of Fox News and being able to refer to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as his friend. It was Giuliani who first introduced DeGroat to Trump in 2019.
Trepidation tempered with determination helped empower DeGroat to push through his tenure as a White House intern. Being in a new city during a pandemic didn’t make it any easier, but through it all DeGroat remained positive and enjoyed meeting White House staff members.
“I learned to manage my own life,” DeGroat said. “It was tough, and I was homesick and had anxiety. Every time I accomplished a dream, it made me anxious; but down the road it feels really good.”
As for what’s next, DeGroat wants to take the law Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed in early 2020 a bit further. The Michigan law is designed to make it easier for police to know if they’re talking to someone who has autism and how to better approach them and communicate without causing undue stress. DeGroat said now he wants Homeland Security and the FBI to adopt a similar plan.
“Agents need to be better trained and could be alerted when they approach people with autism,” he said.
To learn more about DeGroat’s foundation, visit xavierdegroatfoundation.org.