December 7, 2022 By CDHD CDHD trainees present at national AUCD conference November was a busy month for three of our trainees. Maddie Coleman, Victoria Rae and Kellie Matern were hard at work preparing to present at the 2022 AUCD conference in Washington DC. This national conference took place from November 13-16. It’s an annual event that brings together AUCD network members, non-network organizational partners, experts from the disability field, people with disabilities, family members and trainees for three days of learning and growth. This includes large group plenaries, presentations, research, programming and advocacy. Representing the Idaho CDHD, Maddie, Victoria and Kellie presented our Movement in the Park project, which emphasizes adaptable exercise for adults of all abilities. They have generously shared some of their learning experiences and highlights from their trip … Q: What is the AUCD Conference all about? Maddie: The AUCD Conference has a different theme every year, and this year’s was Health Equity: Serving the Whole Person. This was my first time attending, and from my perspective it’s about professionals coming together to share their triumphs and to glean new ideas from one another. It’s a celebration of the work that everyone has done as well as a time to forge connections and gain new perspectives and notions relating to each individual’s field. I would definitely go again given the chance. Q: Why were you attending? Victoria: We were in attendance to not only soak-up the valuable information being provided at this conference, but to also present our model of Healthy, Active Lifestyles and Movement in the Park. The aim was to show more organizations like the CDHD how to start offering accessible and affordable options for physical activity within their own communities. Kellie: We were able to present our poster and talk with many people that wanted to implement Movement in the Park in their communities! We heard from multiple specialists, doctors, advocates and trainees about increasing the overall health of people with disabilities. Hearing multiple perspectives was very useful in understanding how we can be most helpful in our positions. Q: How did your presentation go? Was it well-received? Maddie: I was nervous for our presentation, but I think it went really well. We had tried to spread the word a bit the night before while networking, and we had a good turnout of people attending. There was quite a bit of interest expressed to us, and we were able to make some connections that we can capitalize on as we further refine our program, which is very exciting. Victoria: We had people approaching us prior to and after our presentation to learn more about Movement in the Park and how we trainees organize our classes. Kellie: So many people came to talk to us about our project and learn more, and it was so interesting to hear their input and perspectives. We were able to reach a wide variety of people. Victoria: Our commitment to providing an accessible outlet for physical activity to those in our community was admired by many at the conference and we hope to see similar classes pop-up in more communities across the country. Q: What was your biggest takeaway from your experience? Maddie: I would say that my biggest takeaway would be that trusting yourself and others plays a large role in both personal and professional life. The part of the presentation that I was most nervous for was the question-and-answer session afterwards. I was terrified that someone was going to ask something I didn’t know how to address, and that my inadequacy would reflect poorly on our project. I surprised myself a bit in how I knew more than I thought I did. Kellie: I have never been in such a professional setting, so I learned how to clearly state what I do, what I believe, and learn that even though I may not be a doctor, my voice is still just as important as everyone else. Maddie: As one of the very few undergraduates, I felt a bit out of my league. However, everyone I interacted with was very kind and open to conversing with me. I found myself making friends and soaking up an abundance of different people’s stories. I knew my place and was there to be a sponge; I didn’t let my nerves get the best of me (at least most of the time) and trusted myself to be the competent professional I knew I could be. Victoria: Prior to this conference, my experience with networking was very limited. But now, I have become incredibly confident in my ability to engage with others in a professional manner as well as how to carry myself in a way that tells others I mean business. Maddie: Even outside the conference, when we were taking in the history of the city, I had to trust myself and my friends to know how to discern situations and take care of one another. I think that I grew in more ways than one on this trip and cannot express the gratitude I have for being able to go. Q: Did you get the chance to attend any presentations or learning sessions? Kellie: Yes, we did attend many sessions. The one that sticks out most to me was sharing your story by Emily Ladau because she had the most interesting way of describing her story. It taught me a lot about sharing mine. Victoria: I attended the opening plenary, a special-interest group and poster session discussing assistive technology, several networking sessions for trainees, as well as a leading change session discussing how people with disabilities can live, move, and have fun in the world. Maddie: I attended four. Each brought new perspectives and ideas and I have lots to think about in the coming months about how to bring what I learned to my position and work. Q: What was your favorite part of the entire conference? Victoria: My favorite part of the conference was being able to present on Movement in the Park! We had put so much time and effort into teaching classes, developing the framework for Healthy, Active Lifestyles, and creating our poster/presentation that it felt good to finally let it all out – to show the world what we have done to change the lives of people with disabilities in our community. Maddie: While presenting is a special honor, I prefer learning over teaching, so my favorite part was attending the sessions. In particular, I thoroughly enjoyed the special interest group session I went to, the Collaborative on Faith and Disability. My faith is an important part of my life, and it was fascinating to hear the perspectives and research regarding barriers that exist and different ways that faith institutions interact with individuals with disabilities. Kellie: I also enjoyed going to the special interest group about faith and disability. I learned about so many problems that I was not aware of and met some really awesome people! Q: Did you have time to do anything else while in Washington DC? Kellie: We had a lot of free time! We were able to go to Museums, the Library of Congress, the Archives, the Capitol building, and the memorials! It was amazing! Maddie: The very first night we got there, we took a nice long walk around the National Mall, visiting as many monuments and memorials as we could. I would recommend the night stroll, as the structures were glorious all lit up. I also had time to visit a few museums and take walks to see the Capitol and other little memorials in the City Center where we were staying. It was such an enriching cultural and historical experience just to be there, and I tried to soak it up any chance that I got. Q: And finally, what was your favorite part of the entire trip? Victoria: My favorite part of the entire trip was my solo-visit to the Holocaust Museum. Unlike the Smithsonian, I attended this museum alone and I am so thankful I did. I was able to take my time reading all the exhibits, allow myself to feel the powerful emotions as I moved through the different rooms, and reflect on that dark time of human history. I also picked the perfect time to go. There were times that I was completely alone with some of the exhibits so I could truly soak-up all of the emotions and information without the noise of others around me. I will never forget my trip to this museum and would encourage anyone who goes to DC to make time to visit. Kellie: My favorite part of the entire trip was seeing the library of congress. The building was gorgeous and looking at some of the most important photographs in American history was so moving. Maddie: That’s kind of a hard question. While I love learning, I think the time spent with my coworkers outside the conference was my favorite. I took a walk with Kellie to the Capitol around sunset one evening and we got to see the magnificent architecture glow. On our last night in the city, all the CDHD members got together and went out to dinner together. Even in the airport, just chatting and sharing in the adventure we were on, is a warm memory for me. I'm thankful that I get to work with such sincere and fun individuals.