Our Buddy Walk on Washington is a two-day advocacy conference. On the first day, we participate in legislative training; this is where we prepare everyone for their meetings on the Hill the following day. Tuesday, we provided tips and tricks to help attendees in the sessions. We suggested that they do their research on the legislation, ensure to follow up after their meetings and to say thank you to the elected officials for taking the time out of their day to meet with them.

Following this we had training from Soapbox, on how you have to work your schedule, where to find your meetings on the Hill, a map coded that helped them locate the buildings and room numbers. After this piece of training, we had our public policy advisor, and special guests talk about the legislative priorities that are imperative to the asks in the meetings. We showed them how to conduct a meeting by holding mock meetings on stage to help them prepare for the next day — my takeaway from Tuesday’s training was how beneficial and necessary it was to show how meetings typically take place. I learned a lot from the practice because it mentally, emotionally prepares you when you speak on the Hill.

I felt the piece of legislation that was most important to me was the marriage and equality act. It was especially lovely having my local Congressman be the one to introduce this bill that means so much to me. I hope this gets passed that all individuals with Down syndrome can marry without losing benefits.

I felt the mock meetings inspired me; it is an example of what I do when I speak to members of Congress on the Hill. Not only do the mock interviews help our self-advocates and their families tell their stories, but I feel it also helps me, but I can also always improve myself when conducting meetings with elected officials.

My favorite part of the Buddy Walk on Washington is meeting new people, new families and working for them to improve our lives. I love making new friendships, and I also love meeting Members of Congress. I give them my business card and hope to do a podcast with them. I like to get their insights on their position and what they stand for regarding our issues.