Rachel’s More Than a Bill on Capitol Hill

Back in 2009, “School House Rock” was Rachel’s first show with Christian Youth Theater (CYT) Kansas City. Here are a couple of pictures. I love her expression in this one.

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And I love that the prop had her name and initial on it in this one.

shr box name showing

It was a great first show for our family. Saturday afternoon Rachel went with our friends the Stricklers to see the 2014 version of CYT’s “School House Rock.” As a little aside, you may remember that Andrea Stickler is Rachel’s peer mentor at her high school. When I was searching for Rachel’s School House Rock photos, I found this one that I didn’t even knew existed.

shr w andrea

That’s Andrea playing the part of George. Perhaps a little foreshadowing? Before Saturday’s outing, Rachel and I were talking about the show and singing a few of the songs. Our favorite is “I’m Just a Bill” which Andrea sang in the 2009 production. We were singing it and I said, “Rachel, what bill is on Capitol Hill that we know about?” She said, “The ABLE Act. Pass the ABLE Act so I can get my pink house.”  I reminded her that it had been on Capitol Hill for about eight years. Just hit me that is several years longer than she has been singing this song!

Rachel started advocacy at a very young age. She was almost three for her first trip to the Tennessee State Capitol for “Disability Day on the Hill.” All or part of our family went every year. She was a tiny little thing and cute as could be. She was a good girl but she was tired by mid-afternoon so her daddy found a seat in the main corridor while I went to finish visits. I came back and found them surrounded by a crowd. Apparently, she had been visiting with legislators, other advocates and lobbyists. Jonathan said, “We should have just sat here all day. We’ve seen everyone. I was able to give out information to several legislators.”

When she was about seven, we were visiting legislators for that same occasion. We walked in an office and she bypassed me and went straight to the legislator. She stuck her hand out and said as clear as could be, “I’m Rachel. I am fully included in my first grade classroom.”  I was so stunned I had to gather myself.  I was recounting the story to a fellow advocate and mentioned that I was surprised by this. Apparently, she really does listen to what I say. My friend said, “Yes, she listens and I am sure she is happy to be in the classroom with her friends.” The friend had a twinkle in her eye that was not lost on me. Rachel understands a lot more than we sometimes realize, too.

The benefits of inclusion and advocacy efforts cannot be overstated. They are often intangible. They are often non-measurable. They are sometimes seen years down the road when the smartest kid in the class is managing his own company and he gives the girl with Down syndrome a job. Or when Rachel connects “I’m just a bill” to the actual ABLE Act that for which she has advocated. Or when the ABLE Act is passed. Or when the talented, beautiful girl from a CYT show wants to be Rachel’s peer mentor. That doesn’t happen if you are always in separate classes, in your own hallway, or in segregated activities. Truly, Rachel is more than a bill on Capitol Hill.


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