In a previous I detailed my advocacy efforts to enhance the rights of people with disabilities. As I prepare to head back to Minnesota in a little over a week to assist in teaching the lobbying class that gave me my start, I would like to reflect further on the process that I went through in order to create my proposal that launched my dedication to protecting and enhancing the rights of people with disabilities.
As a special education student I was able to forage close personal connections with many special education teachers at both Eagan High School – where I attend from ninth to tenth grade – and the School of Environmental Studies – where I graduated from. In preparing my proposal for the legislators that I scheduled to meet with, I began with background information about the issue of special education funding which showed how much more it costs a school to educate a student in the special education system versus the general education system. I then interviewed a variety of special education teachers that I had become close with over my years of schooling. I even spent time with my special education teacher from elementary school to show her what progress I had made as a result of her work in helping me to learn about my worth as a student with disabilities. I also made a point to meet with her to show her that the self – advocacy techniques that she taught me in elementary school was translating into me being able to advocate for all students with disabilities in the state.
My favorite memory of my lobbying experience was when I was running through the tunnels under the Minnesota state capitol typing emails on my phone, clacking along in heals with my mom’s red leather briefcase. I think that this picture of me shows how dedicated I was to my work and professional appearance, even at such a young age.
The experience that I had lobbying the Minnesota state legislature in high school allowed me to grow professionally through the experience of speaking to lawmakers and presenting myself in a mature way.
Heading into my first year at Drake my experiences in Minnesota gave me the confidence to head into my college career with a strong idea of what I wanted to do as a career. This confidence gave me the motivation to explain to President Maxwell my career goals. I then explained to him that Senator Tom Harkin is a role model of mine. Unknown to me at the time, President Maxwell is a personal friend with the Senator. A couple of days later I received a phone call from Senator Harkin who received my contact information from President Maxwell. Our conversation on a sunny morning lead to me meeting with Senator Harkin’s personal assistant who convinced me to interview for an internship on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee.
As an intern for the disability team on the HELP committee I was given the opportunity write speeches for Senator Harkin, prepare memos for him to use on the Senate floor, research and analyze legislation, and conduct a survey of the accessibility of the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC that I was then given the opportunity to write on behalf of the HELP committee.
While I am only half way through my college career I have already gained valuable legislative advocacy experience that will assist me in obtaining the career goals that I want to achieve.