Day 236- Rep. Donald M. Payne (D, New Jersey)

For the next 36 days (from March 28 to May 2),  I will be contacting and writing about 36 extraordinary members of the House of Representatives. They are all extraordinary in that they form the bipartisan Congressional Spina Bifida Caucus, and so they strive to address the unique needs of the spina bifida community in the U.S. My “mission” is to write to them, and urge them to make quality of life, and not solely prevention, a priority on their agenda in Congress. It has come to my attention that education about spina bifida is critical during all the stages of development– from planning to prevent spina bifida through the consumption of folic acid, to comprehensive education about spina bifida once it is diagnosed. We need to educate, starting with the physicians and other healthcare providers, so that they will be made aware of the potential that each child with spina bifida possesses.

I hope you’ve all been having a beautiful Earth Day! Let me start off this entry with some good news: I finally finished writing my letter to the members of the House of Representatives who form the Congressional Spina Bifida Caucus! I’m sorry it took me so long, but I did want to make it perfect. A big thank-you to Mom (Myrna), who helped me with the letters and is keeping me organized– and sane. I also have a few extras to spare.

Another piece of good news is that the semester is almost over. I don’t mean to sound like a slacker, or and I certainly don’t mean that I hate college. On the contrary– I’m finally beginning to like college, and I feel that I am beginning to network and meet other people. The only issue I’ve had is that being a full-time student takes up so much energy that could otherwise be directed toward this cause! When all is said and done, this is what matters to me most. I can’t wait until this summer. I’m taking my last two classes for my B.A., and they’ll be spread out over the entire summer– and will be taken entirely online.

Here’s one thing I forgot to account for in my brilliant plan to take the shuttle bus to UCF for my remaining few semesters: using a wheelchair all day, you experience burnout. By the time the bus rolls in at 5:15, I’m spent! The unforgiving Florida heat does little to help this. Still, I am determined to make at least a few sporadic trips to UCF in the summer, if only to meet with friends and participate in extracurricular activities.

But, enough. I think it’s a safe bet that none of you are UCF academic advisers! So, on with the “meat and potatoes.” Rep. Donald M. Payne of New Jersey was the first African American elected to Congress in his state when he was elected in 1988. He is Past Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and is Co-Founder of the Malaria Caucus. Congressman Payne is also a member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and he is Past Chair of the World Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee. He’s a member of the Education and Labor Committee.

Payne has invested his time and energy in many national organizations like the YMCA and the NAACP.

Outside of Capitol Hill, Rep. Payne has been involved as a board member of many charitable organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newark, Trans-Africa, and is the former National Director of the Young Men’s Christian Assocation— otherwise known as the YMCA.

In keeping with the Earth Day celebration, I want to share an interesting bit of information I received from a Twitter friend of mine, Elianne Ramos, who is a vital part of the Latinos in Social Media movement (LATISM). (Follow her on Twitter: @ergeekgoddess). She and many others will be Tweeting live from a climate change rally taking place in Washington, D.C., this Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you’re interested in this movement, you should also follow Kety Esquivel, who is the Executive Director and CEO of LATISM.

That’s all I have time for tonight! Please keep tuning in daily (or, as it’s beginning to seem, nightly!) for a dose of spina bifida awareness– as well as social change awareness!

May you all stay healthy and socially aware,

Laurita ♥


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