By Jamie Jarzynski
June 13th through 17th 2022, I was in Washington DC for the Source America Grassroots Advocacy Conference. I was selected by Rick Sebastian, CEO of The Kennedy Center, to advocate as a representative for The Kennedy Center. This venture was supported by my staff, family, and DDS.
On Monday, my dad and sister’s French bulldog, Ollie, dropped me and Mom off at the train station. I cried saying goodbye to them because I was going to miss them. I took an Amtrak train with Mom and Beatriz, my staff, from Bridgeport CT to Washington DC. I was nervous to ride the train, but it was amazing!
Rick met us at the train station in DC. We took the DC Metro to the hotel to check in and get settled. On Monday evening, we attended the welcome dinner where there were guest speakers and I met other self-advocates from all over the country! After dinner, I got the chance to go to my first Major League Baseball game, it was the Washington Nationals vs the Atlanta Braves. I wish it was the Boston Red Sox, but I can’t complain because now I have two teams that I like!
Throughout the week, I did different training sessions focused on advocacy and how it is important to keep advocating for jobs for people with disabilities. I also met virtually and in-person with CT legislatures. Two of my standout moments from the conference were telling my story and meeting Representative Jim Himes.
I told my story in front of all the advocates and their teams, over 100 people! I was feeling very nervous, but Beatriz and my mom said, “You got this!” My story was about me, what I like to do, my dreams and goals for the future.
I met with Jim Himes at his office at Capitol Hill! I told him my story and he was very impressed. When I asked more about him, I learned that he keeps bees back at home in CT! Next, his staff Nick gave us a private tour of the Capitol, it was AWESOME!
Other AWESOME moments during my time were: we went on a moonlight bus tour, got a tour of the Executive Office Building (EOB) which is part of the White House Complex, and we ate REALLY good food! Did you know the maintenance workers at the EOB are people with disabilities?!
I had an amazing experience while in DC! It was very hot there. Fun fact: me and heat ain’t good friends! But we worked it out! I would like to extend my thank you to those who supported me throughout my journey: my family, my staff at T2E and Project Advance, and DDS.
To all current and future advocates, whenever you feel like you are not important, say to yourself and out loud, “I AM SOMEBODY!”