Advocacy has no age limit

Advocacy has no age limit
(Submission) Muscogee (Creek) citizen Neveah McDonald (podium) took the floor at the Oklahoma State Capitol to speak out about shaken baby syndrome awareness.

Liz Gray/Reporter

Middle school students make change through advocacy

OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — Muscogee (Creek) citizen Neveah McDonald is well spoken on the phone making it no wonder she placed second in advocacy for Oklahoma’s FCCLA state competition.

An eighth grader at Kellyville Public Schools, McDonald and classmate Paige Young have worked over the past few months gathering information about an issue impacting their community.

“We are advocating for shaken baby syndrome, we want to lower the statistic rates in our community because that’s a big concern in both our community and in our state,” McDonald said.

When McDonald was searching for a subject to advocate, she had the guidance from her stepmother, who is a lawyer for the Tulsa Lawyers for Children.

“They helped us go through the categories of what we could have done,” she said. “Whenever she brought up shaken baby syndrome that was something that really hit us.”

The group of young teens felt moved to speak on the subject and those who are affected by it.

“We want to advocate for the children who can’t advocate for themselves yet or children afraid to speak up for themselves,” McDonald said.

McDonald and her classmates contacted different hospitals to verify if they had information to help with new parents.

“What we found out was some Indian hospitals, like the one in Claremore, when they send new parents home with babies they don’t really do anything with like the purple crying or shaken baby syndrome,” she said.

According to definition by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, shaken baby syndrome is a serious form of abuse inflicted upon a child usually occurring when a parent or caregiver shakes a baby out of anger or frustration, often because the baby will not stop crying.

“So many parents end up not even meaning to do it and end up incarcerated for it, that’s something we want to change,” McDonald said. “We want to lower the incarceration rates because of it, lower the children in foster care because of this and we just want to raise the awareness in our community and lower the statistics.”

McDonald and Young’s advocacy has gone beyond competition, going as far as inspiring the lawmakers of Oklahoma.

The students’ state house district representative, Kyle Hilbert created a resolution which passed through the House proclaiming April 29 ‘Don’t Shake Day,’ in order to raise awareness.

The next step for McDonald and her classmates is the national FCCLA competition in California. She said the cause for the trip is worth the efforts of raising money.

“We have to raise $1,500 a-piece to go, it’s something that means a lot to us,” McDonald said. “It laid a place on our heart.”

“It’s not something that should go unheard, people need to know.”

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  • Ann Whitehouse
    May 24, 2019, 7:40 pm

    Very proud of these young ladies.