Last month, both people with and without disabilities gathered for the first ever In This Together Summit to prepare for Disability Day on the Hill. The next day, representatives and allies from the disability community came together to advocate and meet with their legislators. For one group of students, this is not the first year they’ve prepared and spoken on the issues they care about with their legislators. These students are in it to make a difference and to speak up for their needs.
The Metro Nashville Public School Community Based Transition Program at the Center Building works year-round to gain the skills necessary to live independently and successfully after graduation. Part of their education includes sharpening their skills as self-advocates. We sat down with four students – Noah, Emmanuel, Benjamin, and Zachary – to talk with them about their experience advocating at Disability Day on the Hill. They’ve got some great tips for us as well.
Noah is 19 and likes playing soccer with the Tennessee Special Olympics team. He hopes to join the Marine Corps or work at a Holiday Inn helping plan and get banquets ready.
Benjamin (Ben) is Noah’s twin brother. He’s 19 and likes to spend his time playing video games. He aspires to go into the Navy.
Emmanuel is 19 and enjoys playing soccer and video games. He also hopes to join the Marine Corps one day.
Zachary is 20 and likes playing video games. He hopes to work for News Channel 5 in the future as a meteorologist.
What did you hope to achieve going into Disability Day on the Hill?
Benjamin and Noah: To speak up for myself and have confidence. Also to be polite.
What issues did you talk about / advocate for with your legislators?
Benjamin: There’s so much trash near the river – we need to clean it up.
Zachary: We need more sidewalks in neighborhoods, especially in my neighborhood.
Noah / Emmanuel: Help the traffic flow. Build more roads and plan more public transportation.
Did you enjoy getting to talk with your legislators?
Benjamin: Seeing and meeting so many new people
Zachary: I felt like I was listened to.
Did you feel confident and empowered as a self-advocate leaving DDH?
Emmanuel: Yes, it was an empowering experience.
Benjamin: I felt really confident already going into it.
Noah: I left feeling like “Yes, I can do this.”
Did you have a favorite part of DDH?
Benjamin: I liked being able to share what I care about
Noah: Meeting the governor
What advice would you give to other students to prepare for DDH?
Benjamin: Stay calm and do your best.
Zachary: Prep and practice what you’re going to say.
Noah: Don’t be scared! Remember that they work for us.
What advice would you give to other self-advocates?
Emmanuel: Be confident in yourself.