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Standing Up for a Cause

Will Kovich, 20, takes leadership and advocacy classes at The Arc of Greater Tarrant County, which advocates for people with developmental disabilities. Kovich, who has Asperger syndrome and schizoaffective disorder and lives with his family in Kennedale, traveled to Austin in April to speak to legislators about Senate Bill 1395, which proposed the removal of the “R” word from state language and enforces people-first language. The bill was left pending in committee when the 81st Legislature Regular Session closed June 1.

My life is exciting. I went to see and meet the legislators and got to talk to my area representative about removing the “R” word from state publications. The “R” word is bad because it puts people who are different all in one group and makes us all feel bad.

I go to Arc and I belong to a leadership advocacy class. In class, I’m learning confidence and get ideas on how to better talk to make my point heard. Because I belong to this class, I have had the chance to go to Austin twice. Walking in the Capitol is like walking through a maze of possibilities and hope for a better future for people who have disabilities. It makes me proud to be a self-advocate.

To me, self-advocacy means a chance to learn about the policies and a chance to tell my story and maybe affect peoples’ lives. When you are an advocate, you have issues you believe in. You can point out things that are not fair in the law. It’s a chance to pursue my dreams to be more assertive with decision makers and make sure people understand things better. I’ve been watching a lot of TV to keep up. The politics that are involved in advocating are always a surprise to me when I go to the Capitol.

Politics has been part of my life for a long time. I started to become more interested in politics in my teen years by watching TV. Since I am a young adult now, I am finding my voice and what is best for me. In training, we talk about how to talk to our legislator and tell our own story. The legislators make the laws, but we advocate for the laws.

There was excitement in me as I went to meet my state representative for the first time in my life. I was excited to meet [state Rep.] Chris Turner, and he was a nice guy when I shook his hand. During my Town Hall meeting, people were talking about transportation and other issues. It got tense when people were shouting about issues that they care about. Sometimes they had to be calmed down by Rep. Turner. I was a little bit tense after the Town Hall meeting with Rep. Turner, because it takes a long time to get out all this information in my head.

As I get older I want to be more aggressive and involved. I want to keep learning. My goal is to help myself, educate lawmakers and help other people, because a democracy is all about being free and equal. Because you can disagree without being punished.