“We can be advocates. We can speak up and adults will listen to us. We have a voice,” said Questin McQuilkin when asked what he learned from his trip to Hartford to lobby for Alzheimer’s education for all who are working with the elderly.
The other 15 students from Ms. Gilda Meier’s English class echoed Questin’s sentiment. “Not only did the legislators listen to us,” said Katherine Landler, “but people like Sen. McLaughlin brought out their entire staff and spent a great deal of time talking to us about the issues regarding Alzheimer’s. Legislators don’t see young people very often and they were very pleased that we had taken the time to come and speak to them.”
In addition to talking with the students, the legislators gave them a tour of the state Capitol. “The Capitol was interesting because it was like a regular office building, but there were many interesting pieces of history all around as well,” said Elke Burns.
To Sophie Reale, one the best parts of the trip was sitting in an official conference room and listening to Sen. Kelly guide students through the process that Bill 179 will take before it is accepted or rejected. “We were told to keep writing our persuasive letters, as that was better than calling or emailing.”
Julie Fandetti added, “I was moved when the legislators told us that it is important when young people get involved in government, as it gives them all hope.”
Though Alzheimer’s may seem like something that might draw more concern from an older crowd, some of the youngsters had experience with the disease’s impact.
Out of the 16 class members who wrote persuasive essays to qualify for the trip, six had relatives with Alzheimer’s. For the other 10 students, there was much to research and learn in order to write the letter. “It is scary to think that every 68 seconds someone in the world is being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and there is still no cure,” Claire Filaski said.
For Ms. Meier, working on this Alzheimer’s project is a nice fit for the curriculum. “Sixth grade English students must be proficient in writing persuasive letters. They also need to research material for a social action unit.”
Last year Mrs. Meier took three students to the Capitol, but this year there was much more interest. “This year’s students were so motivated, so able to communicate with adults, so much better prepared and able to share their information,” said Ms. Meier. These students will continue to be part of the group that we take to the Capitol next year.
“These sixth graders will also be involved in constructing an Alzheimer’s float for the Memorial Day parade and be responsible for working on the Night of Music for Alzheimer’s, May 14, and the Second Annual Walk and Kid’s Fest on June 15. Our program is all about kids and Alzheimer’s.”
The following students also went on the trip: Greta Gilbert, Nataly Romero, Bailey Harriott, Max Stafford, Elizabeth Jasminski, Ana Kawalczyk, Cate Irving, Veronica Gross, Caroline McGeary, and Julia Lin.