Happy President's Day! This seemed like a great time to introduce you to someone doing some serious advocacy work on our behalf on Capitol Hill — the American Diabetes Association's newest National Youth Advocate, 17-year-old Logan Nicole Gregory.
Logan lives with her parents and two sisters in Lexington, Kentucky, where she has been a diabetes advocate since she was in first grade (!). Logan has been a Walk Ambassador for several years, and has spoken to many Members of Congress about diabetes.
As the new NYA, Logan will be turbo-charging her advocacy efforts: speaking at diabetes walks and ADA events, lobbying Congress on the Hill, and touring diabetes camps this summer to encourage and inspire children. Logan took some time out of her busy schedule (she's also a senior in high school!) to talk with us about her new role and her advice for being a diabetes advocate.
LG) I became an ADA Youth Ambassador in Lexington, Kentucky, when I was 6 years old so I have actually been an ambassador for about 10 years already. The first time heard about this opportunity was almost 5 years ago when my friend Justin Harris, who was also an ambassador, became a National Youth Advocate. I saw him speak at a Walk kick-off luncheon, and he told me about all his traveling, speaking and advocating. I thought, that's something I want to do!
I applied for two or three years in a row, and this year I finally got it! I was really excited. I'd really make a difference in the diabetes world.
What kind of difference would you like to make?
I'm really trying to advocate diabetes education and awareness. Something really important to me is school safety. That's something I'm really focused on now. Something I'd like to get done this year overall is the Safe at School Campaign that the ADA is working on. It's about getting people in schools educated about diabetes, and helping children with diabetes have the ability to easily access their diabetes supplies, like needles, insulin, glucagon, food, and to keep their supplies with them all the time. Safe at School is also about getting teachers, nurses, faculty educated to keep children with diabetes safer.
Have you had bad experiences at school before?
I haven't really had bad experiences, but just being a person with diabetes, going to school is a lot different than if you didn't have diabetes. There's a lot more that you have to do. When I was as a little kid, not everyone knew what diabetes was. We always had to find someone to give info to so that I was okay. Every teacher and administrator should have that information, so that no matter where you are, when you have a problem, there is someone there who can handle it and can help you.
How did you get started in diabetes advocacy so early?
I've never known a life without diabetes. I was diagnosed when I was two years old, so I grew up with it. I'm still growing up with it! No matter what, you just have to keep pushing through it. I do think it's important to make sure you advocate and make sure other people understand diabetes.
When I first heard about being a Walk Ambassador, we met up with the head of the Walk Ambassadors in Lexington. We talked to her and sort of felt like it was something that throughout the years would help me embrace having diabetes, and help my family cope as well. We realized we could help other people too.
You seem like a pretty well-adjusted teenager. Have you ever gone through any difficult times? Any advice for teens?
Everybody has difficulties with diabetes. I have ups and downs all the time, with puberty, when I'm sick, when you're really mad or upset, that can affect blood sugar levels as well. It's about your environment and all the things that happen on a daily basis. Getting a cold or sinus infection can mess my blood sugar levels, and it's just one of those things you just have to push through. You just have to keep going and push through it.
Do you have any advice for parents?
Just support your child with diabetes. The best thing for a parent to do is to just be there and be supportive.
Advocating made me feel that I wasn't alone and that I was making a difference. For people who think that something isn't livable or that they just can't handle it, the best way I think to deal with it is to be educated, stay healthy, exercise, and be part of a group that can help you get through it. That's what helped me. I had people who supported me, were educated with me at the same time, and they were always there when I was upset about it. It's all about the support system.
What will your responsibilities be this year?
We've got a whole lot of stuff planned and it'll be a big year. In March, we're going to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress. This year we're really focusing on education and programs for taking care of people with diabetes. I'm excited to get started! Over the entire year, I'll be traveling all over the country. In the summer, I'll be talking to children with diabetes at camps. I'll be sharing my experience and hopefully getting kids to open up about their lives with diabetes. I'd like to be a role model when it comes to diabetes, and hopefully getting kids excited about educating other people about diabetes.
What's it like to lobby before Members of Congress?
Basically when you go to lobby, you describe diabetes. You ask if they know someone with diabetes and describe how it affects people, and then you ask for their support for funding for diabetes, for healthcare reform or to help diabetics get supplies, diabetes research, or campaigns like Safe at School.
Do you ever get nervous?
It's more of an excited nervous. I get excited to talk to all these people with all this power, knowing that they can make a difference in my life and the lives of other people with diabetes. When you're passionate and it's something you believe in, they notice that. When you ask them for support, they realize when you're really passionate about it. Most people I know are surprised how easy it is for me to talk about diabetes.
Thanks, Logan, you certainly are an inspiration! If you want to get involved in diabetes advocacy like Logan, check out the American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Alert Day, happening next month on March 27.