Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Special possibilities

[This Marlin Oil advertorial appears in the July 7 edition of The City Sentinel.]

Tax-financed scholarships for students with disabilities gained legislative approval this year. Scholarships for “special needs” children passed after fierce debate in the Legislature.

In a long news report this week on the CapitolBeatOK website, Patrick B. McGuigan (also senior editor for The City Sentinel) reported on this summer’s Youth Leadership Forum, hosted by the state Developmental Disabilities Council.

Based in Chickasha on the campus of USAO, the forum gave an opportunity for teenagers facing disabilities to discern, as a forum brochure put it, how to “work, play, learn, and worship in their own homes and in their own neighborhoods.”

The young people heard from bipartisan leaders at a “Capitol Day” in Oklahoma City. Then, they had their own debate. McGuigan reported: “Sitting in the seats of elected officials, requesting recognition from a presiding officer before speaking, and addressing one another with respect, the students challenged premises and frequently sparred over provisions allowing tax-financed scholarships to special needs children.”

The young “legislators” passed the bill, 14-10. In the Legislature itself, the measure cleared the House 54-46, and 25-22 in the Senate. Not so different.

The best part of this story was about the teenage boy who acted as youth sponsor for the bill. Before debate, he was afraid he would make a mistake, and people would “make fun of me.”

Ann Trudgeon, who runs the Council, assured the worried boy we all make mistakes, try to learn from them and move on. Soon after, he heard the same thing from Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, and then from state Rep. Jason Nelson, sponsor of the “real” bill. The boy did fine, and the bill passed.

Despite the name of the program she runs, Trudgeon told CapitolBeatOK, “It’s not about disability – it’s about being who you are and making yourself and your life the best you can.” Amen to that.

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