Elise Sarvas, Advocate for Children’s Oral Health

Elise (second from right) with her pediatric dental residents in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

How are you an advocate?

I am the Public Policy Advocate (PPA) for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. You can read more about the position here. Basically, I serve as the representative for the AAPD on the state level to promote children’s oral health in state policies. Every state has their own unique needs for their PPA. In Minnesota, I am concerned with raising the reimbursement rate for children’s oral health services. We like to think of Minnesota as a progressive state when it comes to taking care of our children, but the reality is that we rank dead last in paying for dental services for kids. This means that children who are on state insurance like Medicaid or Medical Assistance programs can’t get the care they need because the dentists get paid too low to see them. So while they “have dental insurance” they can’t use it because the dentists can’t pay for staff, supplies, and time to see them. We are the worst in the country – it’s really shameful. 

How did you learn to be an advocate?

I’ve learned on the job! There is no one way to do advocacy and how I approach it changes on the day and who I’m speaking with. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is to investigate who all the stakeholders are. Once you understand their perspective, you can start to make some ground. There are so many issues that seem like they have easy solutions, but if they were that easy to solve, I’d like to think we would have already done it. Once you understand who all is involved, you can reach out to them in a personalized way. 

What are skills that would be good to know?

I was at first a reluctant advocate. It’s outside my comfort zone to talk to people I don’t know. But whatever squeamishness I have is far outweighed by the chance to do good for someone who can’t speak for themselves. And that’s my trick – I’m not asking for something for me, I’m asking for someone else who needs it. It gets me outside my head and that’s the only skill you really need. That and some persistence 🙂

Every year Elise takes her pediatric dental residents to DC to learn how to talk to lawmakers. Here she is with her team and with Representative Betty McCollum (District IV – DFL, Minn).
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Ready to make an impact? Be an advocate.

Today a record 127 women were sworn into Congress. Media headlines are proclaiming that 2018 was the year of the woman in politics. Have you been feeling motivated to get involved and step up but not sure where to start?

Luckily we don’t all have to jump in and run for office, (but if you want to, please do!) there are many ways we can make an impact in our own backyard. In the next several months we’ll be profiling other Junior Leaguers that are advocates in our community. We hope their stories will inspire your path to advocacy as well.

Laura Monn Ginsburg

Laura working on Jacob Frey’s campaign, arranging his press gaggle for his acceptance speech.

How are you an advocate?

Professionally, I own a public affairs firm where I get to advocate for clients like environmental organizations, transportation equity organizations, and disability organizations. My company was founded as a General Benefit Corporation which means we’re a mission-based organization. Our mission is to promote social justice and equity and environmental sustainability.

Personally, I advocate through a bunch of nonprofits. I’ve worked to find groups that reflect my values and principles and then join their advocacy efforts which include things like rallies at the Capitol, meeting with legislators, and being invested in how my government represents me.

I’ve also volunteered to work on campaigns of people and issues I believe in. This has given me the opportunity to door-knock, network, phone bank, write postcards, drop signs/literature, and learn more about the political process and how things really work and change. You find out what you like to do and just do more of it!

How did you learn to be an advocate?

By doing 🙂 Honestly, the best way to learn to be an advocate is to show up. You don’t need to do anything fancy, you don’t need to know anything specific, and you don’t have to worry that you aren’t prepared — being you, a constituent, a feeling person, a thoughtful citizen who knows what she cares about — you are ready just as you are.

Ask questions, ask to meet your representatives (they work for YOU — don’t forget it!), and ask yourself what matters most to you. If you see someone around you who is active in a way that interests you, ask them how they got involved and how you can, too.

What are skills that would be good to know?

Being a good communicator who is clear in what she thinks and feels is your best asset. Whether you’re at a planning meeting, you’re showing up at an event or rally, or you’re meeting with a representative, having a clear, concise message that’s authentic and personal is the biggest skill you need.

Having good handwriting for signs is also helpful.

Laura at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

Thanks Laura!
Are you an advocate and want to share your story?
Please contact Kelly Ptacek to post your profile.

General Post – SPECIAL FEATURE Marta Haynes – Defining Sisterhood

Sisterhood: Fostering an enviroment of authencitcy, empowerment and success

Last week, I attended the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit in Phoenix, Arizona.  My leadership chain (all men) nominated me to attend and provided sponsorship.  To be totally honest, I felt both honored and nervous.  I am 100% caucasian, and I didn’t know how I would be received by fellow conference attendees.  Nonetheless, I was excited to attend and firmly committed to listen with big, wide-open ears; afterall, how many times do I as a white person get a chance to be “in the minority”?

The moment I set foot on the conference site, I could feel the amped up energy.  Once I put on my conference badge, I was approached by many conference attendees – greeting me, asking me where I was from, welcoming me… I was actually feeling quite sheepish and shy!  This all felt like a lot to take in, and I wanted to retreat into a protective shell.

As I attended sessions, I noticed the distinct themes of authenticity, personal integrity, and sisterhood.  The importance of being seen for who you really are.  I actually felt quite envious as I heard story after story of woman helping woman.  How can I find a group like THAT?  I would love to have some of what they have!  Why have I never truly experienced this? Do I REALLY feel seen?  Am I REALLY comfortable with expressing my authenticity?

About a day and a half into the conference, I had my big “aha” moment:  the discomfort and self-consciousness I was feeling was not the result of any experience I have EVER had with any community of women who were different from me.  All of the insecurity I was feeling came as a result of my experience with interacting with groups of caucasian females – women just like me!  Tears immediately sprang to my eyes and I turned to the ladies sitting next to me, and with all the raw vulnerability I was experiencing in that moment – I shared my heart.  And you know what happened next?  My heart was unabashedly received.  The lady sitting next to me grabbed my hands and leaned forward and thanked me – “do you promise to come back next year and bring other people who think like you, too?  This conference is for everyone – and now that you know our struggle, now that you hear our voice, you are in a better position to help us.”  I asked the three caucasian ladies in my work group (total conference attendees = 1,500), and they too shared stories of competition, woundedness, judgment and rejection, all from predominantly caucasian groups of women.

Ladies – of COURSE I thought about the JLM.  We want to stay true to our mission and foster an environment that truly empowers women.  We want to continue to attract and retain a diverse base of members – so that a broad range of women’s voices will be represented.  The following list summarizes some key learnings from the conference… If you think this sounds remotely interesting, I encourage you to consider attending the conference next year!  I will be.

 

  • Individuals who are being truly authentic foster supportive environments. When we show up as individuals – honoring our unique abilities, physical attritbutes, and ways that we bring value, we create an environment that gives others permission to do the same.  Individuals are inspired to action in these environments.  Teams achieve goals in these environments.  It is perfectly acceptable to take risks, set big goals – and even fail – in these environments.
  • When one lady wins, we all win! This entire concept of celebrating others’ successes as if they were are own was discussed frequently throughout the conference.  It really boils down to a worldview of abundance versus scarcity.  What do I mean by that?  I celebrate others’ successes as much as my own because I realize that there are abundant opportunities for me to win/contribute.  I do not live in a “zero-sum game” kind of world.  A world view of scarcity comes from deeply rooted fear and insecurity: “when she wins, I lose”, “there is not enough for me and her”, “I will not have enough”.  This does not foster an environment of sisterhood, much less an environment of high-performance.
  • Support your sisters publicly, protect the “inner circle”. This concept basically highlights the importance of presenting a unified front to the world.  What does this look like?  It means presenting a unified image to our JLM community partners, it means discussing conflict 1:1 in a private setting with the indivdual(s) directly involved, it means refusing to engage in gossip or discussion that reduces another in the eyes of others.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us…. Love is what we are born with.  Fear is what we learned here.”  ~~ Marianne Williamson

JLM Advocacy: Providing Education to inspire action

DO Something about it: Action to Advocacy

Policy Action Center, their homepage states: keeps you informed on important education issues, helps you find and track legislation, connects you with Congress and gives you the tools you need to be a successful education advocate.

Here is the Education Minnesota’s main site: http://www.educationminnesota.org/advocacy

JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspiring members to action

How to track State Legislation

Trying to track State legislation?  Check out these links!

Tools for tracking state level legislation:

 

JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspiring members to action

How Else can I track Legislation?

Here are some resources for tracking legislation.

National Conference of State Legislatures

GovTrack

Education Week

National Education Association

JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspiring members to action