I had the honor of participating in a leadership development program sponsored by the Disability EmpowHer Network. I wrote a blog about my experience with the program last summer, but the fun didn’t end there.
My Project on Food Insecurity
Throughout this year, I have worked with my mentor on a project related to emergency preparedness for the disability community. All the young women in the program are working on their own projects with their mentors as well. We will meet again this summer in Washington, D.C., to present them. The project I have been working on is an informational video describing the problem of food insecurity and proposing possible solutions. One of those solutions is to convince policymakers to provide money to fund mutual aid networks, which can make and distribute nutritious food when disasters strike.
My mentor on the project, Kelly Timmons, happened to know an Arizona policymaker named Rep. Jennifer Longdon, who is a member of the Arizona House of Representatives. Kelly asked Rep. Longdon if she would consider meeting with me. When Rep. Longdon said yes, Kelly and three other mentors from camp arranged to come all the way to Arizona to join us!
A Day at the Arizona Capitol Building
Rep. Longdon is also a wheelchair user and she works hard to help the disability community here in my state. She planned an amazing day at the Capitol for me and my friend Kailani. First, she arranged for us to come during the month of March, because it is Women’s History Month and Disability Awareness Month. We went on March 7, which was also World Hearing Day! This was especially meaningful for Kailani, who is hard of hearing. I lead the spectators in the gallery in saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and Kailani lead it in American Sign Language. Then, Rep. Longdon read a legislative proclamation honoring women with disabilities. Rep. Longdon also gave us a tour around the Capitol. Going through security with three power wheelchairs was something else but we managed!
Making an Impact
At the end of the day, Rep. Longdon gave me and Kailani our own copies of her Proclamation and special pins that are usually only given to members. She also gave us the U.S. and Arizona flags that flew over the Arizona Capitol that day, along with a special certificate signed by the Arizona Secretary of State. The certificate acknowledged the efforts me and Kailani are making to positively impact our community. We are giving the flags to our principal to fly in front of our school.
Navigating the Capitol with My Stretto Power Wheelchair
I admit that I was surprised to see that Rep. Longdon was the only wheelchair user who worked in the legislature. I couldn’t help noticing that a lot of the spaces we had to move through were very tight and narrow, but this wasn’t a problem for me and my Stretto Power Wheelchair. It made me so happy to see a woman who uses a wheelchair in such an important job. I believe that kids need to see more people like them doing cool things. If you can’t see it, you can’t imagine it, and if you can’t imagine it, how can you become it?
I am very grateful that I have such wonderful role models and mentors as well as my friends and family for supporting me along the way. So, I want to thank everyone who believes in me because I don’t think that you can imagine how much it means to me!
About Maddie Kasten: Maddie is a Q Roll Model for Quantum Rehab. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and enjoys participating in adaptive sports, playing video games and watching anime. Click here to learn more about Maddie.
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