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Effective Advocacy: Making Your Voice Heard
Advocacy is a word both loved and feared in our country. To advocate simply means to show public support for an issue or a cause that you believe in. But how does an individual effectively do that? With federal government employing more than 2 million individuals and state government employing more than 100,000, how do typical citizens get their voice heard? How do they grab their elected officials attention and say, “Hey! This is a problem and you have to do something now!” These are a few questions that I pondered when I began researching the topic of effective advocacy during my 12-week internship with the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities at Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Early on in my internship, I learned that the individuals who need to advocate for themselves the most do not know how. They are unaware of how to effectively communicate with their elected officials in any meaningful way. That’s why, during my time with MCDD, I researched the best ways to make your voice heard, so that the process was something anyone could use.
Many of the steps are simple, including suggestions like calling, writing a letter, or requesting a meeting with your legislator. The underlying goal is always to inform the elected official that you are a constituent and that a particular cause is very important to you. Individuals should not be intimidated or discouraged by the process. Hard work will pay off in the end.
Through my internship with MCDD, I learned how to advocate, and I discovered my own personal desire to help others do so as well. The ability to advocate for a cause is powerful, and everyone should be able to do so. At MCDD, I worked hard to develop meaningful advocacy tools for patients and families across Maryland, including through the creation of literature and guidance materials instructing individuals how to advocate for themselves and navigate the Maryland legislative process. MCDD produced 10,000 copies of these handouts for widespread dissemination within the Institute, to our community partners, and online.
While working with MCDD’s Leadership Team, I found their passion contagious, and I found myself wanting to learn more about how public policy affects individuals with developmental disabilities. There are many people who devote their lives to effectively advocating on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities. Still, it is evident that much work is needed. My internship experience motivated me to continue my policy research. I hope to one day be an effective advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities. In my opinion, the only way to achieve lasting change is to work hard to be a part of it.
Candidate, Bachelor of Science in Political Science, May 2012
University of Maryland Baltimore County
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