Shaker Middle School student Whitney Belvedere is raising awareness about epilepsy at the highest levels. Not many 8th graders take on presenting and answering tough questions from members of Congress, but Whitney is on a mission to bring about change in funding and the attitudes about epilepsy.
She was recognized March 27 by the North Colonie CSD’s Board of Education as its March NC Kids Care recipient.
Below is the text of Whitney’s nomination and a transcript of the speech she gave while lobbying on Capital Hill in late February.
Our honoree this evening is Shaker Middle School 8th grade student Whitney Belvedere.
Whitney was selected to lobby on behalf of the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern NY on Capitol Hill at the end of February. This was an extreme honor and empowering opportunity for Whitney to advocate for funding on behalf of children across the nation living with Epilepsy and seizure disorders.
Lobbying on Capitol Hill is something few adults get to experience and for Whitney to accomplish it, and continue to bring awareness and support to students living with and advocating for Epilepsy is without question a “step above” what many students of her age can list among their achievements..
Whitney’s intense several days on the Hill included her being trained in advocacy, skills she immediately put to use when she met with Elise Stefanik, Chuck Schumer, and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Whitney will now embark on a Year of Service to continue her advocacy through the end of 2023, collaborating with our local Epilepsy Foundation office. The YOS empowers teens to take on a leadership role and advance their advocacy to the next level, exploring ways to raise public awareness, strengthen relationships with elected officials, and help create positive change for the epilepsy community. Whitney is ready to take on this prestigious opportunity.
And what better way to show you she’s ready … let’s hear from Whitney, delivering for you the speech she gave while in D.C.:
“I have epilepsy, but epilepsy doesn’t define me. I also have dyslexia, which also doesn’t define me. I am an honors student, and an athlete on my school’s rowing team, and I am an advocate and a leader on my middle school student council, and my school has ensured that despite my illness and despite my disability, I have access to opportunities, but that first came from the advocacy of my family. I come from a family of privilege and not everybody is afforded the opportunities that I have had. Where do you stand on diversity equity and inclusion in schools, especially for students who don’t come from families of privilege?” How can we make sure that all students have access to the same funding and education as I do? We need to make sure we are all working together to give equal opportunities to all children and families.”