Letter from Self-Advocate Paula Mass

Paula (on the right) with her friend Suzie in Washington DC for 2017 NDSS Buddy Walk

March 14th is Disability Rights Legislative Day. It is a day to advocate for equal rights to individuals of all abilities, and gives individuals with developmental disabilities the opportunity to voice their needs and wants. Paula, one of our self-advocates, wrote a letter about how she has found her voice while interning with DSAGSL for more than five years. We hope her inspiring words encourage others to be confident in advocating for themselves!

“My name is Paula Mass and I have been a DSAGSL office intern since 2013. Since coming to work here as an intern, I have learned to be a better self-advocate.  I went to the state Capitol last year to be an advocate and to Washington D.C. I am also now on the DSA Board of Directors!

I work at the DSA Office on Mondays. I am usually there from 9:00-4:45.  I do many things when I am at the office. I help with the mailings that go out, I get the mail when it comes in and pass it out, I work on the birthday cards that go to all of the members, and any other things that I am asked to do. I like being an intern at the DSA.  I remember when I was asked to be an intern at the office. I was more than thrilled to become a part of the DSA team.
This job has helped me to be a better self-advocate. I did not know what a self-advocate was at first. I was sort of stuck in my own ways before, but I had to move past that. The more I learned about how to talk to people who came into the office, even though I was scared, it helped turn my attitude around. It wasn’t easy at first, but everyone at the office was patient with me. I guess I was shy.
Later, I was asked to be on the Board of Directors for the DSAGSL. My father talked to me about having a spot of the board as a self-advocate and he told me what that would mean. That meant that I would have to speak up even more. I was scared again, but I gave it a try.
I speak up more now than I ever did. I speak up about things that are important to me. I also speak up about things that are Down syndrome. I speak up for my friends and family if I need to. I am a self-advocate and I am proud of it. Just think, this all came from becoming an intern here at the Down Syndrome Association Office.”

Paula (front center in purple) with group in Jefferson City, MO for Disability Rights Legislative Day 2017