Students and Faculty Travel to Albany for OT Advocacy
On Tuesday, March 5, 40 students and 4 professors from the D’Youville Occupational Therapy department made the near-300 mile trek to Albany, NY for the annual New York State Occupational Therapy Association’s (NYSOTA) Advocacy Day. Beyond the classroom, students at D’Youville are encouraged to advocate and stand up for causes that are important to them, and this event was a chance for the students to take what they’ve learned in their studies and apply it to issues in the greater community.
Advocacy Days are excellent opportunities for members of a profession to reach out and work directly with key legislators on topics that affect their field. The visibility of the collected members of a profession makes an impact on lawmakers and highlights the importance of their issues.
Students pose on the staircase in the legislative office building in Albany, NY.
In addition to joining together, advocacy days lead to direct connections with legislators, and these personal communications create memorable experiences for each legislator to think about when deciding to support or reject a proposal.
“We want D’Youville students to get first-hand experiences in advocating for their profession with state legislators,” says Theresa Vallone EdD, associate professor and director of the Occupational Therapy program. “They meet face to face in various legislators’ chambers and articulate the value of the occupational therapy services and the support for several legislative issues coming up for vote.”
“As a soon to be graduate, I feel as though attending advocacy day invigorated me to enter the profession with a new determination to speak out and educate others on important topics related to occupational therapy,” said Mackenzie Barnes ‘19.
Lindsey Timothy ‘19 echoed those sentiments that the reality of starting her career is beginning to set in. “Being so close to graduation gave us more motivation to speak up about issues because we all recently completed our fieldwork and were able to see first-hand some of the issues we discussed with the legislators.”
One of those key legislators that students had the opportunity to speak with was D’Youville alum and New York State Senator Tim Kennedy ‘99. Some initiatives that the professors and students spoke on included early intervention services for children born with developmental needs and occupational therapy services for Medicaid recipients and those receiving workers’ compensation.
Students and Theresa Vallone, EdD, pose with NYS Senator Tim Kennedy '99 (center) in his office.
Students who attended said they felt “a part of something,” that they were helping “make a change,” and the day helped them to develop a deeper understanding of the issues.
It’s precisely this awareness that Anna Conroy ‘19 said she walked away with. “I came out of this experience with a better knowledge of real and suppressing issues regarding Occupational Therapy.
“The most exciting part about making the trip to Capitol Hill was being able to have a voice. I have a much higher confidence speaking about these issues now,” she said.
Timothy added that the most exciting part about the experience was being able to have a voice for something that is so important to herself and thousands of others. “Though we hope that we made enough of an impact while speaking with the senators and assembly people, just the simple fact that we put in an effort and had a voice is so rewarding.”
Vallone said she hopes students gained confidence in advocacy activities and the benefit that these days can have by affecting change in their communities.
“Joining forces with others can be empowering, and ultimately we hope [the students] gain an awareness that their dedication counts,” Vallone said.
April Whitcomb ‘19 returned home knowing the voices of many can make a difference. “Collectively joining forces with other students in my profession from New York State provided me with a sense of empowerment towards representing the vulnerable population to provide them with needed services to increase their quality of life and well-being.”
Students and Theresa Vallone, EdD, in Tim Kennedy's office.
Reflecting on the experience, Vallone couldn’t be prouder.
“The best part of the trip for myself and other faculty members is to witness the professionalism and preparedness of the students. They speak clearly and with conviction and are able to digest and communicate the salient points of certain legislation while sharing the meaning and value of occupational therapy to others.”
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