Earlier this summer, while speaking with one of our Kidney Advocacy Committee members, Robin Kahn mentioned that she had brought advocacy education into her classroom. She taught a unit on advocacy and asked one of her Congresswoman’s staff to visit her class. We often overlook how lucky we are to have such remarkable access to our policymakers and those who do advocate, focus their attention on their legislators. Seldom are young Americans taught about how they can (and inspired to) “be” the change that improves our country’s policies.
Thinking of this marvelous class project, I asked her to share her story with our readers in the hope of inspiring others to do the same.
Andrew Fullerton National Kidney Foundation
During the 2017-2018 school year, I introduced a service learning curriculum to our 6th & 7th graders. Over the course of the year, our students learned about homelessness, poverty, environmental issues, inclusion, caring for the elderly and finally a unit on advocacy. The lenses through which we looked at each issue was how the issue affects our towns in the Greater Boston area and why they are important to the Jewish community. The year culminated with students forming groups based on the issues they were most passionate about and then presentations to Wade Blackman, District Director for Policy in the office of Rep. Katherine Clark.
The idea to reach out to Wade came from the advocacy work and fly-ins that the NKF organizes each year in DC for kidney patient advocates. I’ve been honored to participate in the Summit for the past five years, and each year I am moved to tears by how accessible our elected officials are. Is there any place else in the world where a civilian can just walk into their elected officials’ offices and talk to them about the issues and legislation they are passionate about? My friends from Israel are always astounded that in American our government buildings and offices are open to the public.
It was this past March during a meeting with David Bond in Rep. Katherine Clark’s Washington, DC office. As my fellow advocates and I spoke with him about the legislation, like the Living Donor Protection Act (H.R. 1270) and early detection and management of kidney disease, it occurred to me that someone in the local office might be able to meet with my pre-teen students as part of our advocacy unit. David put me in touch with Wade, who was more than willing to meet with our students, listen to their passions and answer their questions. Our students were captivated and eager to spend more time with Wade. Alas, the hour went too fast.
During that presentation, because of my young students’ curious questions, I learned that Wade and his family live in the same neighborhood as many of them. We had an immediate connection. This summer, when came time to set up local meetings to talk about our policy priorities, I knew that reaching out to Wade would be super easy, as we were already on a first name basis. I shot off a quick email and requested a meeting with him or Rep. Clark about kidney patient issues. In that email, I shared that the Living Donor Protection Act was important to me, as my father and I are both living donors to my mom. Having already established a relationship with Wade, made our meeting super easy.
I am grateful to Wade for his willingness to engage with my students and myself. I look forward to seeing my students follow in my footsteps, advocating to improve policy on issues they care about because of his time speaking with them. I also look forward to seeing how my own efforts make a difference with Rep. Clark adding herself to the list of co-sponsors for the Living Donor Protection Act, taking it one step closer to passage.