LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 8, 2016) — As a child, Karah Holbart often tagged along as her mom attended classes at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work. Those classes seeped in, inspiring Holbart to follow in her mother's footsteps.
Now a junior in the same program, Holbart's goal is in focus: serving as an advocate and making lasting changes in people's lives. She hopes to be the “Jane Addams of our time,” referring to the leader in woman’s suffrage and one of the most prominent reformers of the Progressive Era. She's making progress toward that, most recently by advocating in Washington, D.C., through a semester long practicum at Independence Place, a nonprofit organization.
Independence Place operates with the core goals of supporting individuals with disabilities in many ways such as independent living, peer support, and individual and system advocacy. Independence Place serves over 50 counties in Kentucky and is the second largest center for independent living in the country. Holbart got to participate in individual and system advocacy by going to D.C. to talk to representatives, including Kentucky’s independent living specialist, and attend a national conference on Centers on Independent Living. The objective of the trip was to advocate for more funding and to raise awareness of certain bills that aid people with disabilities.
Holbart described her experience as getting to do “upfront, in your face system advocacy and lobbying for things we need.” She had the unique opportunity to meet important people, like Sen. Chuck Schumer, who helped pass the Americans with Disabilities Act. Holbart has gained an understanding of how advocacy works at the top level and how to proceed with this process in her future social work career. It also helped Holbart understand how current policies affect the population she is working with.
When asked about one of the most noteworthy parts of her trip, Holbart spoke about a meeting she attended with the Administration for Community Living. The meeting was led by people with disabilities ranging from being blind to using assistive technology to communicate, “These people are affected by the decisions they make and want to fix things because they know and understand the challenges faced.”
Holbart's takeaway from the experience is that that nothing will ever change if no one does anything about it. She explained, “We have to be a voice for the voiceless and stand up for people who can’t. We have to be their advocates and be that person. To experience it and a part of the change, reiterates how important it is what we are doing.” Holbart could not be more grateful for this opportunity to change lives and to be a part of the Independence Place community.
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