Personal Perspective: How Partners Helped My Advocacy Journey

By Katie Moore, 2023 Partners in Policymaking® graduate

A painting of a yellow flower with a green stem. Words on the flower petals contain phrases like “I’m child of God,” “I’m chronically ill,” “I’m worthy.”
A painting Katie made to represent her Partners experience - originally featured in last year's Breaking Ground arts issue

I heard from a friend about policymaking classes. I thought I would be a good fit. I checked it out on the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities web-site. I was able to apply, and I got into the Partners in Policymaking® class.

It started in September 2022 and then ended in April 2023. There were people in the class from all over Tennessee that joined. Our first two classes were in person. Then we met over Zoom a couple times a month.

We heard from a lot of different speakers to be more powerful advocates throughout this class. We heard from The Arc and Tennessee Pathfinder and Our Place Nashville and a lot more organizations.

There were a lot more different things I got to hear about while in the class. We talked about self-esteem and our “I statements,” so I can have good health to be a good self-advocate and advocate for others.

We heard from news teams about how we could get our story out to the world so we can share what’s on our mind about our problems, so more people can help with it. We heard from a mayor and legislators about how to speak up about what our issue is and how we can get help with it. We always need to speak up and speak out to get the word out about our issues we have.

We had several people join this class with a learning disability or parents join to this class I was in. I have gotten to know them each a different way, some closer than others. And plus, I have gotten to learn a lot from Cathlyn [Smith – Director of Leadership Development] and Lauren [Pearcy – Council Executive Director] and Emma [Shouse Garton – Director of Public Policy]. They were amazing people that selected all the class members in this amazing class I joined.
I enjoyed hearing the different experiences from my classmates. When we had class, Mrs. Cathlyn always asked for updates on how your self-advocate journey was going and had us share anything we have learned or any ideas we want to mention. We always started our classes with that, then our homework – go over that. Some people in my class always had good stuff or hard stuff that they wanted to talk about.

We learned how to talk to state leaders. We need to know what all is out there for disabled people, so we learned a ton while in the class. We learned how to be-come more, what our story is about, and what we want to self-advocate about.

I have gotten a lot of amazing experience. I got to speak in front of a School of Education class at Union Universi-ty. That was an awesome experience. It gets my
self-advocate journey stronger and better when I go out to talk about my self-advocate journey. I have learned to take time for myself and remember to use my I statements we talked about.

I’ve gotten be part of so much since being part of the advocacy class. I’ve been trying to help my friends with chronic illness be better self-advocates. I got voted in on July 4 as part of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center advisory council. I’ve been getting better at learning how to talk to my doctors and other people. I heard that what we will be doing in the council advisory board is hearing more about Vanderbilt and giving feedback on the projects they do and learning more about the council. I went to my first Vanderbilt advisory board meeting on September 8. I’m excited to get know those people in the council.

Getting to be part of this training helped me learn more about voting and other things for disability. I shared my artwork in the art magazine [Breaking Ground arts issue]. Plus, I got to be part of Tennessee Disability Coalition as a disability content creator, posting ideas and sharing about voting with a disability, and how it’s hard to vote with disability.

I want to get issues out there. Doctors don’t understand chronic illness – what we go through on a daily basis. We need to get the word out about disability and wheelchair issues and chronic illness. Our advocacy journey is powerful. We need to remember our “I statements:”

I am awesome and I am a self-advocate and I am strong. I am beautiful.

Remembering I statements helps keep me strong to share my story. Self-advocates’ stories are powerful with all different issues! We need more advocates to share what is going on with issues around the world.

Katie Moore is a graduate of Union EDGE at Union University. She lives in Henderson, TN, and enjoys crafting, volunteering, and the connections she has made through her Partners experience.

Cathlyn Smith stands with her arm around Katie, a tall, blonde young woman in glasses and a yellow floral top and jeans, smiling and holding a certificate.
Director Cathlyn Smith with Katie at her Partners graduation