Educating the Next Generation

I have been hard at work speaking about ALS to classes at Drake University! I have visited 37 classes since the first week of fall semester. I have a handful of classes scheduled for the next few weeks. I speak to classes of all subjects – everything from economics to botany to political science. I want to send a message to my fellow classmates that they do not have to be interested in science to help defeat ALS.

Speaking to classes can be quite frightening. I feel comfortable talking about the disease and my mission, but there are times when I look at the audience and feel overwhelmed. Even though I am terrified, I continue with the presentations. Each presentation focuses on 3 things: ALS, how students can get involved with the ALS Association Iowa Chapter, and my mission to end the disease. Each presentation lasts approximately 2-3 minutes because I do not want to take up too much class time. A few individuals think my presentations are pointless, but I truly believe it is making a difference. Students have already contacted me regarding volunteering with the ALS Association Iowa Chapter. I have come to accept that I cannot make a huge impact on everyone. As much as I wish I could, I cannot force anyone to get involved in the fight against ALS! If I can inspire at least one person to stand up to the disease, then I have made a difference.

I also spoke at 2 middle schools in October – Nathan Hale Middle School in Crestwood, IL and Hamlin Upper Grade Center in Alsip, IL. I love speaking to students from my area because I want to show them that no matter where they are from, they are never too young to DREAM BIG! Speaking at Nathan Hale was not what I was expecting. At Nathan Hale, the angle at which students were sitting was very unusual. My presentations were not at the level I wanted them to be. I was extremely disappointed in the lack of information transferred, but I decided to not let it bring me down. I knew in my heart Dr. McLaren would want me to get back up and focus on the next school, Hamlin Upper Grade Center.

I visited Hamlin the following Tuesday. I had the presentations from Nathan Hale in the back of my mind, but refused to let them bother me. Fortunately, the classroom setup was perfect. There was a huge screen in the front of the room and all the students were facing me. It was my natural position for speaking to classes and I knew it was going to be a fabulous day!

Each presentation went off without a hitch. Other teachers brought their classes in, so it was a full crowd. I always present better when there are more people in the audience. I felt much more confident. The students asked thought – provoking questions and I had a blast answering each one. Some individuals even had great ideas for ALS research, and I truly hope these students will join me in the lab one day! As the day started to progress, I became very exhausted, but I reminded myself of Dr. McLaren’s courage and continued on with the presentations. The principal of Hamlin even came by for the last presentation and by the end of the day, I could not stop smiling. I knew Dr. McLaren would be very proud of me! I  had refused to let the disappointment at Nathan Hale bring me down and had given amazing presentations at Hamlin Upper Grade Center. Thank you to the faculty and students at both schools for allowing me to visit!

My last speaking engagement of 2014 will be at IMSA on December 9th. My talk will focus on ALS as a disease, my friendship with Dr. Eric McLaren, and what I have learned from my ALS journey thus far. I am very excited to share my passion for fighting this disease with the IMSA community and know it will be a successful event! I hope to have my talk recorded and available to the public following the event. I am extremely honored to even be considered for this opportunity. Thank you, IMSA!

Overall, I am excited to continue speaking about ALS. I truly enjoy teaching others about the disease and look forward to speaking at more middle schools and high schools in the Chicagoland and Des Moines areas next semester.

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