**** Newest great thing that has happened to me….Last Friday April 24th, was one awesome day and I am incredibly happy and excited. When we went to Washington a couple of weeks ago, the Congressman asked me to work for him, do some speeches and special projects and to reach out to Erin O’Connor, who would be my boss and sell myself to her. He called her and introduced me over the phone so last Friday I went to the Congressman’s Syracuse office, and what an office it is, just so beautiful, the view was awesome to see. I gave her my resume and she did an impromptu interview. She said that I got the internship position (unpaid), but YAY! Erin gave me a tour of the office and introduced me to all of her and my new coworkers. I start my internship on Tuesday the 28th and I will be interning two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-11:30. I am so excited and very overjoyed, definitely over the moon excited. I will wait to put this out until after I can include a day or two of my internship, WOW!!!
Well here it is. I started interning on Tuesday April 28th at Congressman Katko’s office and so far I have been shadowing Theresa while she answers the phone, so that I know how to answer them. In the beginning I have been sitting with her and learning the ropes of what I have to do. I have my new email set up at house.gov. On my first day I learned I am getting an office of my own and got to choose it, they said it is in the middle of everything, cool! I filled out some paperwork, moved some papers around to make a new folder. I met other people I hadn’t met yet. The Congressman came in and we talked for a minute and then back to work for both of us. There was art in the conference room that was part of a contest and one of them will hang in the hallway at the Capitol, the judges came in to determine 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. On Thursday I was counting out survey cards that were returned and came up with 860. There is also a lot more to count, I think over a thousand of them. Next week I am going back to shadowing Theresa in the front on the phones and computer. I am waiting for the computer, someone said they will fix it so I can work on it. I really am over the moon excited and so looking forward to the weeks to come. I LOVE THIS INTERNSHIP!!
On March 17th I three Syracuse University Students came to my house to do a documentary about me for their class. They interviewed me and my Mom, they also came to one of my Track and Field practices and videoed me, my family and friends. Later in the month they showed their presentation at school and asked me to come to the viewing. I went into their classroom and I got to see the documentary that Corinna, Katie and Derek made. They did an awesome job. I hope they got a good grade.
On April 1st I had an early start. I was asked to Westhill High School to do a presentation to 10th graders on bullying. It was their last day of a no bullying week at their school. I was very happy and excited they reached out to me. I spoke about my accomplishments but also told them of how I was bullied and how it made me feel, NOT SO GOOD! I showed my video, the Principal and Vice Principal came in to hear me also. They gave me a nice bag of goodies, I got a themed Westhill mug, water bottle, shirt and gift card to Dunkin Donuts (right up my alley)! I love speaking at the schools and delivering my message. If I can help one person to reach out to get help if they are being bullied than I made a difference.
On April 8th, I spoke at Pensabene’s Casa Grande. I talked to Niagara Mohawk retirees at their meeting. They were generous in giving Gigi’s Playhouse a check so I went and spoke to them about Gigi’s and how they helped. I did the pledge of allegiance with them and they talked about a couple of things and then John the President introduced me. I told them of what Gigi’s offers and a little bit about my school experience. At the end I took questions and they were good ones. I felt happy to share my story about the Playhouse. Some of the retirees said it was a great speech and gave me a high five another said he remembered seeing me peak at Solvay High school and that that was a good speech and this was another good one. I took a picture with the head chef who was making the lunch for the luncheon; she also had me take a picture with the food?.
On Good Friday, the day that Jesus dies for us, my parents and I went to Stations of the Cross at Christ the King Retreat House, it was led by Bishop Robert Cunningham and he led us in prayer through the 14 stations with readers and in candlelight. It was a very nice service. At the end they were serving pizza and I asked the Bishop to join us at our table. I talked to him about Gigi’s Playhouse and being involved in my church as a Eucharistic Minister. We talked about other subjects as well. I thought how cool is this, talking to the Bishop. I felt very honored to talk to him.
Easter is the time to reflect on Jesus coming back from the dead and celebrating his life. On Easter Sunday, we celebrated with family. My parents and I went to my Aunt Melanie’s house to celebrate Easter, we had a lot of good food to eat for dinner, like ham, potatoes, vegetables, pierogi’s, kielbasa. Before all of that I looked in my basket that my parents always hide for me. I got a whole lot of goodies. I gave my parents theirs. We had our Easter best clothes on and went to church for mass that morning. After making our side dishes and part of the main course we went to my Aunt’s house. We all hung out and talked and enjoyed everyone’s company. After leaving my Aunt’s we went to Grandma’s house and gave her some food, she didn’t make it over, I missed her and really wished that she was there, but I completely understand. We left my grandmother’s and then went to the cemetary, we took our corsages from Dad and we laid them down at my other Grandmothers and Grandfather’s grave and prayed. Then it was a whole lot of nothing as we digested our food in the comfort of our house!
On April 14th we had an early start to our day, my Mom and I had to get up at 3 am for a 5 am flight to Washington DC. We were lucky we were able to check into our room by 7 am, before everything started happening, which was nice. We were in at the Buddy Walk on Washington for the National Down Syndrome Society. The self-advocates had a luncheon to attend alone, it was nice because my Mom had been sick and she got to kick back for a bit in our room. I went to the luncheon speak out session; I had a leadership role, I spoke about school, where I was from, what education means to me, I also I talked about Down syndrome in the social media and in the community. After the speak out session I met my Mom and got to watch Governor McAuliffe of Virginia sign a bill passing the ABLE act in his state. He is originally from Syracuse and he went to school with my Dad so I had my picture taken with him. We also went to a two hour training to go over what was happening the next day. That night there was a very nice dinner with an open bar where we got to mingle with other self-advocates and enjoy a nice dinner. They announced the winner of the Ethan Saylor scholarship, I applied for it and was hoping it was me but I understood because the family picked someone who reminded them of Ethan and I understood that completely. I was relaxed and comfortable throughout the night, though my shoes, not so much! We did meet some really nice people from New York City at our table, a Mom and her two daughters, the Mom works for ARC and may be contacting me to speak there in NYC, cool!!
The morning of the 15th was supposed to be an early start but my Mom still wasn’t feeling great so I went down stairs and told the group we would meet them there as soon as we could. We missed the breakfast and got to the Capital steps just as they were disbanding from the picture but they took a pic of Mom, me and Sara Weir on the steps. Our first meeting was with Senator Gillibrand, we met with her staff and took a picture together, we told her about what we were asking for and thanked her for supporting the ABLE act. I told them my personal story about education and what I have been up to at college, the ESEA act that we are trying to pass. I spoke with Senator Schumer and his staff. I remembered him from when he came to Syracuse to help push the ABLE act and showed him the picture of, he said we should take one here in Washington as well; all of the pictures have been posted on facebook. We had a break and we had an escort that led us to their subway car that lead us over to the House side of the Capital. It was a pretty quick ride and a long walk going to where we needed to go. Me and Mom had a break and went to the cafeteria to hang out and I grabbed a quick lunch, my Mom still wasn’t eating. Now my next meeting was awesome, I got to see my friend Congressman John Katko. We were waiting for him in his office talking to Jordan, his scheduler and checking out his cool new digs and he walked in and said Kayla come here give me a hug. I was honored to give him and award from the NDSS, Champion of Change award for helping people with Down syndrome. He looked around for a place to put it and we took a picture with him and I and the award and then a picture with Mom, him and I and the award, it was awesome! I said time to get serious and discuss why I was there. I asked him to sign on to the Down syndrome caucus and he said he would, yea! I also asked him to help us get the ABLE act passed in New York State. I was really happy, he also posted pictures on facebook, it was so cool to see especially in Washington. He told us his wife Robin was also there having lunch with the First Lady – pretty sweet. After the meeting we rushed back to the hotel to get our luggage to try and make the 4:30 flight with a connection in Boston to Syracuse. We got there in time but the flight filled so we tried for the 5:30 to Boston and finally made it on the 6:30 but no connection to Syracuse so we had to fly to Rochester and my Dad drove and picked us up. We didn’t get home until 12:30 am and we had to sleep fast because we had our regular schedules the next day. We were lucky though because that was the day the guy landed the gyrocopter at the Capitol and we had just left there or we would have been on lockdown, yikes, scary!
I recently had a meeting with my Aunt Michele and Pastor Karen from Word of Life church where my Aunt works. It was about a speaking engagement on Sunday April 19th. I went there and spoke to two services for the children; one kind of early in the morning and the other was late morning. I was in the room called The Sanctuary. They started out with songs of praise, and then Pastor Karen talked about offerings, we watched a short video of someone getting baptized. She is super energetic and introduced me as the special guest and I tried to keep the excitement going while I did my speech and showed my video. I opened up the floor to question and answers and they were some very smart kids and asked awesome questions. At the end of the 1st service some of the children came up to talk to me. I had a break for a bit and then the second service; it was the same speech so it was pretty much the same as before. This time after I opened it up for questions they had amazing questions that I never thought they would ask. I was really blown away by them.. At the end of this service , they lined up just to talk to me and I was really excited and it was super energetic for the first service, by the second service I was getting a little tired so I had to make sure that I was on my A game. I think I did ok with that. When it was over I was bone tired and not doing much else. My parents said just watching you was a little tiring and if they were up on stage, they would have been tongue tied with some of the questions. At the end of both services one of the kids came up on the stage and everyone extended their hands to me and I got prayed over. I thought that was really cool, and felt extremely blessed!
On April 21st I went back to Word of Life School. This morning Pastor Karen did things a little different. She did a blessing to our flag, the Christian flag and on the Holy Bible. She introduced me and I spoke just like I did on Sunday. I showed my video and again they asked great questions and it was fun to answer them. I got introduced to the other Pastors that worked there. At the end some of the kids lined themselves up and complimented me and just talked. One of them came up and did a blessing but got stuck in the middle, so I went to him and said you can do it, I know you can and I put my arm around his shoulders. He did very well. Pastor Karen gave me a stuffed Frog and a very nice thank you note. They tried to give me their offerings from the weekend kid’s service but I told her I wanted to donate them back to their collection for the Golisano Children’s Hospital collection. I felt good about that!
I have been plugging along in school in my Math class this month. Ernie and I worked on my final project and I had another test, just found out that I got 101 on it again so I still have a 101 average – yea!
I’m having a great week, great meeting with the Congressman and awesome grade in class and I weighed in at weight watchers and lost weight again, woo hoo. I have been really trying hard, eating better and working out like crazy and it is starting to pay off. I LOVE MY LIFE! Oh yeah another driving test coming up the beginning of June, they said I had it last time – the last part the double stop sign got me again, they said I had passed and that was the last part, DRAT! Next time!