This spring, I was honored to join high school exchange students on the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX), Youth Exchange and Study (YES), and America Serbia and Montenegro Youth Leadership Exchange (A-SMYLE) programs in Washington, DC, for Civic Education Week. During the event, students meet with members of Congress on Capitol Hill and share about their experiences attending high schools and living with host families on these prestigious U.S. Department of State sponsored programs.
This year, the students also received a crash course on the U.S. disability rights movement from MIUSA staff and U.S. leaders with disabilities, including Maegan Shanks, Disability Inclusive Development Learning Coordinator for CBM; Andraea LaVant, Senior Inclusion Specialist at the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital (GSCNC); and Diego Mariscal, Executive Director of 2Gether International. Leaders do learn from leaders! During the workshop, I learned more about the students’ perspectives on disability in their home countries and witnessed how excited and engaged all of the students were to better understand the global movement for disability rights.
I was also reunited with a few of the outstanding students I first met last August during MIUSA’s arrival orientation for FLEX, YES, and A-SMYLE students with disabilities. During her visit to Capitol Hill, FLEX student Victoria Bodean from Moldova, reflected: “If you present yourself as a leader, a warrior and a fighter...then your disability doesn’t stop you from achieving your goals.” Watch her interview outside the U.S Capitol Building above or open in YouTube.