Using Your Voice

Before last month, I had been to Washington, DC, twice. The first time was in the early 90s, and I was traveling with a group of Purdue students during the heat of the Persian Gulf War. The other time, I was in our nation’s Capital for a women’s health conference. Neither of these visits involved meetings with lawmakers and both were at very different points in my life – one as a college student and one as a young professional, leaving a small child at home.

I visited Washington again in April, and this trip was special for many reasons. First and foremost, it was my first experience advocating directly for an issue – one that is close to my heart.

Before I get further into the “why” I was there, I wanted to share that when you are in Washington, you just feel important – that your voice can be heard and that you can have an impact. There is history – and marble! – everywhere. I’ll confess, I did take a detour to check out the light-hearted “White House Lies and Scandals” walking tour where they told us up front that they could only cover up to 1950 because otherwise, we would be there all night!

While walking, I learned a lot about how the buildings were constructed and what the nation’s capital meant to our founding fathers. They wanted DC to be a place for the people. Regardless of your political beliefs and your interest or disinterest in the drama that is covered in a funny tour, DC is a place where things happen, where laws are made and where lives are changed.

I was in Washington as part of the Indiana Out-of-School-Time Delegation. I had the opportunity to sit down with our country’s decision-makers and let them know how important their support is to the children and families in our community. We talked about 21st Century programming and how it allows children access to academic support and social development enrichment programming to truly lift them up and help them grow.

I was able to share how AYS leverages its funding sources to serve more than 3,500 children a year, helping them go further in school and in life. I shared that over 80 percent of our budget comes from parent fees, 10 percent comes from government funding and 5 percent from private funding. And, that we are working to lower costs for parents in order to serve more students in need.

We also talked about the Child Development Fund Block Grant that comes to Indiana, how it helps nearly 200 students a year participate in programming and how 88% of our parents report feeling more focused at work because of the peace of mind our programs bring them.

Finally, I was able to thank many of our legislators for their support of out-of-school-time issues. We met with Senator Todd Young in person, as well as the staffs of Senator Joe Donnelly and Congressmen Andre Carson and Todd Rokita.

After our very first meeting last month, I already felt empowered. I felt heard. And, I thought, wow, just being in DC makes you feel important.

As I was leaving our last meeting, I saw a sign quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., and it really struck me: “Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat to Justice Everywhere.”

Being a citizen comes with great responsibility. I encourage you to vote in every election and to take a moment to reach out to a lawmaker or public official and let them know what you think…about anything!  They are here to serve your needs and they do want to hear from you.  You don’t have to be a CEO or part of a “delegation” to be heard.  Like we tell the kids in our program, use your voice and your words.

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