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Jackson Walters North Dakota

Advocates from across the nation traveled to Washington DC to talk to their lawmakers about the importance of school nutrition in the fight against childhood obesity.  The North Dakota delegation had the opportunity to visit with Senator Hoeven, Senator Heitkamp and Congressman Cramer.  Youth Advocate Jackson Walters and his mom, Amy, participated in a full day of advocate training in preparation for our day on the Hill.  We caught up with Jackson upon returning from Lobby Day and asked him to share some of his experiences with our readers. 

Q: Jackson, I understand you and your Mom recently went to Washington DC with the American Heart Association.  How exciting!  What was the purpose for traveling to our national’s capitol a few weeks ago?

Jackson: We went to meet with our senators to talk about school lunch and trying to improve the health of ND kids.

Q: School Nutrition seems to be hot topic in our schools, on TV, with our congressional leaders, etc.  Why do you think having healthy meals in school is important for kids your age? 

Jackson: I think that kids like healthy foods and it makes us feel better when we are at school.

Q: You must have learned a lot while in Washington DC!  Tell me a couple of things that really made an impact on you, and how you have shared that information with family or friends since you returned home?

Jackson: I learned that our senators have a lot of people asking them to do different things and it is important that we talk with them and tell them what we think.  I want to help the cooks at my school so it is easier for them to make healthy foods for our lunch. Lots of kids don’t get healthy meals and home so it is really important that school lunch is healthy.

Q: What can kids your age to do to stay healthy and strong for your future? 

Jackson: Be active, play sports, don’t play too many video games and eat healthy foods.

It's not too late for YOU to get involved with the American Heart Association and advocate for healthy school meals.  For more information on how you can be involved, contact Pamela Miller, Regional Grassroots Advocacy Director, Pamela.miller@heart.org

Lori Valencia Greene, Maryland

Lori Valencia Greene is a woman of many hats: mother, daughter, friend, student, and an advocate for change in her community. She was surprised at the young age of 47 to also find herself a stroke survivor!

Lori has always had a desire to make a difference. Because of this she volunteered in her native District of Columbia since she was a teenager.

Lori first became involved with advocacy work in 1985 when she took a job as a legislative assistant on the Hill where she worked for 10 years, including two stints as Legislative Director. She fell in love with the work and eventually took jobs lobbying for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Black Women's Health Project, and the American Psychological Society (APA). While working for the APA, Lori was an advocate for a bill that would eliminate race and ethnic health disparities. One of her proudest moments was seeing this bill turned into law. She says, “I like advocacy work because I feel like I am making a difference, particularly when I am advocate for people who can't advocate for themselves.”

Lori’s stroke experience brought her many challenges, but it also gave her a new drive for advocacy work. “After going through the whole process I realized that there is still a lot of work to be done. I had great care, but there were things that could have been improved and there is still a lot that isn't known about why people have strokes.” After her stroke, Lori stumbled on the American Heart Association web page where she happily signed up for advocacy volunteer work, and has been an active advocate for You're the Cure ever since. She is currently serving on an advisory committee for You’re the Cure.

Of all of the experiences that Lori has had, she says she is most gratified by her advocacy work. Lori’s advice to advocates is to have passion and patience. “Don't give up. Just don't give up. Its' easy to give up, but don't do it. The people you are advocating for need you.”

Are you passionate about advocacy? Tell us your story HERE.

When I had a stroke four years ago, I was a healthy, happy student at the University of Maine. One minute I'm sitting in class, and the next my face started seizing up.  And then I couldn't understand what people were saying. Concerned family members took me to the ER, where I was accused of faking my symptoms in order to escape my finals. Fortunately, my brother spoke up for me, attracting the attention of another clinician who recognized what was happening.  I was incredibly fortunate to have made a full recovery, but I am also aware every day of how easily things could have gone the other way. 

Having a stroke changed my life. I was able to access the vital services and medical care that I so desperately needed, but I know there are so many families who don't have the financial resources to aid in recovery.  And so many people suffer permanent disability from strokes just because no one around them knew what was happening.  Despite the setbacks of a second stroke and brain surgery, I recently graduated from Columbia University with my Masters Degree in Public Health. My survival has given me a new purpose in life.  I want to use my public health education to make sure every stroke victim is as fortunate as I have been.

Our world is full of the unexpected, and the American Heart Association's mission helps to minimize some of those unanticipated setbacks from heart disease and stroke. I cannot thank you all enough for allowing me the opportunity to support the fight to raise awareness, reduce stroke, and save lives.