Recently, we published a blog from Bella, one of our four Advocacy Interns in the Washington, D.C. JDRF Advocacy office this summer. The four interns each approached Children’s Congress with different perspectives and after CC, they all walked away with different experiences. This week, I’d like to introduce Michelle. Michelle was a delegate in the last Children’s Congress and now she is interning in our office. Meet Michelle:
It’s a sunny day in July. While my friends are all back at home in California, probably hanging out at the beach, I felt like I was on the opposite side of the world; in the hustle and bustle that is Washington D.C. Though this environment is the polar opposite of the Southern California suburb I’m from, as I walked into the JW Marriott downtown hotel, I had an old familiar feeling, like I had experienced this before. But my feeling of deja-vu wasn’t just coincidence, because I was here two years ago, as a California delegate for Children’s Congress 2011. Although I understood the great significance of taking part in the conference then, it wasn’t until I worked as an intern in the Advocacy office that I truly appreciated all the effort that goes into planning and executing such an event.
So how did I get here? I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) when I was four years-old and like most of the delegates at CC, my family has been by my side since my diagnosis, providing essential support while managing this high-maintenance disease. My parents have been there for me one-hundred percent since day one, but it was all the siblings at CC that reminded me of how special my relationship with my older sister is. Katie and I are seventeen months apart, just a two year difference in school, so we have always been close – sharing pretty much everything. I didn’t have a choice in getting diabetes and she didn’t have a choice either. She has often had to deal with being the sibling who is less fawned over, and I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to grow up with so much of our family’s focus being on my medical care. As I got older I have taken on more responsibility over my diabetes; including giving myself my own shots, raising money for the walks each year, and traveling to D.C. as a delegate for CC 2011. My sister has been by my side as my number-one cheerleader for every pivotal moment. My sibling’s compassion has inspired me in all areas of my life whether it is managing my diabetes and advocating for a cure or being a caring sister, daughter, and friend. Now that we’re both in college, I still frequently think back to her nonstop hugs and kisses in the hospital when I was a scared, newly diagnosed four-year-old. Without a doubt, when a child has diabetes, the whole family is diagnosed. I hope that the siblings of our delegates recognize how important they truly are and know that their compassion never goes unnoticed.
Even through Children’s Congress 2013, I couldn’t wait to share my experience with her. From sharpening one hundred and forty-four pencils, to writing bios on the Senators and Representatives the delegates would meet with while in D.C., every task and project the interns and I worked on truly was an integral part of Children’s Congress. As a delegate, I had no clue about the minute details that go into planning CC. During this Children’s Congress, I got to see firsthand the other side of the whole process, which was motivating, and each hard-worked but rewarding day of the conference ended up being nothing short of inspirational for me. I truly cherished every interaction I had with a delegate or their family….particularly as I recall feeling so anxious and excited two years ago myself. This year, one of the personal highlights for me was watching all the delegates introduce themselves onstage at the opening banquet dinner. It was so incredibly moving to hear from each and every delegate who contributed to such a passionate group of young advocates. As cheesy as it sounds, I saw myself in them, and all the wonderful memories of community I had in 2011 came instantly flooding back. I felt very proud of each and every one of them, probably just as someone once had of me.
Although it’s too difficult to choose my one favorite part of Children’s Congress, I will say that the Senate Hearing was quite climactic. After the adrenaline rush of transferring everyone from a photo-op with Vice President Joe Biden to the hearing room which was filled to the brim with curious spectators – the interns and all others standing against the side walls were invited up by Chairman Bill Nelson to fill the seats behind the Committee Members of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging. As I listened to the moving testimony of each panelist, I was able to look out at the faces of all the delegates from a unique perspective. In a building designated for political decision-makers in monotone business attire, the sea of children donning bright blue JDRF CC t-shirts was a refreshing burst of energy and inspiration. In our country’s center of political change, these kids were using their own personal stories of living with type 1 diabetes to represent each state and community they were from. Just by being here – and I’m not sure of them how many of them even knew it – they had instantly formed a powerful new community, one I felt intrinsically part of. The image I have of the group assembled before the Committee will forever stand in my mind as proof that with enough passion for our cause, we have the power to move the nation towards a future free from T1D.