Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Meaningful Conference & A Heartwarming Experience By Fabio Botarelli

Taking place at the Capitol Visitors Center, Room HVC 215, was an imperative discussion about making use of the unprecedented 12 billion dollars of additional investment in IDEA. Directed by the likes of Rayna Aylward, the event was laden with four distinguished speakers at the top of their education fields. The call for revolutionizing the practices of ARRA and IDEA originates from a list of disturbing facts that have marked the mediocrity of our nation’s progress with educating people with disabilities. Based on research conducted in 2007, approximately one in four students with disabilities drop out of school, with some states having drop-out rates as high as 50 percent. In some states, more Black students with disabilities drop out than graduate. Come high school graduation, the national high school graduation rate for students with disabilities is only 56 percent. According to a source dating in the year 2000, The National Council on Disability’s evaluation of nearly two and a half decades of federal enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, found every state and the District of Columbia out of compliance with IDEA requirements to some degree. Coupled with the fact that one in ten special education teachers are not qualified as required by IDEA and you have a recipe for disaster. As someone with a learning disability, these figures reinforce why as AAPD interns, we need to step up to the plate and initiate change.

On Friday it was a different day. All of us Schumer interns, were taken on a bus and directed to the Pentagon. Our tour leader was an ex colonel and by his countenance you could tell that this man was not going to tolerate and small talk interrupting his rhetoric. For the duration of our tour we were shown the graveyard of the people who died on the flight that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11th. The graveyard took place on the exact location where the plan landed before crashing. Had that plane not landed prior to its target, many more people would have died because the landing stopped a lot of momentum and released a “fire ball” of jet fuel. I could feel nothing but sorrow for the victims on that harrowing flight, but the bulk of that sorrow took place during a parade of injured soldiers. For thirty minutes us interns, along with hundreds of other people, created two files that opened up a path for these soldiers to walk through. One of these soldiers was missing both of his legs, while others were missing either a leg or arm or suffered some severe physical deformity. But instead of lamenting over their loss, every one of these soldiers had a smile on their face as they shook our hands and waved to us. In my eyes they are heroes because they are not ashamed of their physical disabilities and remain positive in spite of their condition. They are our countries protectors and with my mind and heart I salute them.

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