I'll share news from the NWSA Conference later, but right now I want to tell you all the exciting conclusion to the Subaru dilemma I shared with you a week ago. I had another conversation with ad guy Tom, who really is a very nice person. I asked about the money: "Is everybody else in this ad doing it for free?" He admitted that yes, they were, in part because the whole ad campaign is based on the fact that these are people's unsolicited endorsements. If they paid them, it would look a bit like the endorsements were just offered for the money. Less unsolicited seeming.
"But in your case," he noted, "you wrote your blog post in 2007. Clearly we didn't solicit that. Is the money something that might help you decide to be part of our campaign?"
"Yes," I said, "but not for me. I was wondering if Subaru might want to support a nonprofit that I really believe in." I then told him about the REACH Program and the efforts to secure scholarship funds for REACH. He asked me to send him written info, so here's the email:
It was great talking with you! Here's the website for the REACH Program: http://reach.cofc.edu/. As I mentioned on the phone, REACH is one of around 200 college programs nationwide for people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities (like autism and Down syndrome). We're making our program here as inclusive as possible, which means students who are part of the REACH Program will be in typical classes with typical CofC students--they'll just have extra support provided to them to help them achieve as much as they can. This is huge and important--we don't think that typical kids are ready to live independently when they graduate high school, but our culture often acts as if kids with cognitive disabilities don't need anything else after high school. Of course they do! They need intellectual challenges, the chance to practice living alone while still getting support, the chance to make new friends and to try out adult life. Hugely, hugely important.
I'm especially excited about this program because my daughter Maybelle has Down syndrome, and we're delighted to see how high our expectations for her should be.
The donation would be to support scholarships for students who'd like to be in the REACH Program. Because people with intellectual disabilities aren't eligible for student loans, the only kids who can afford to go to college are those whose parents saved up--and let's face it, a lot of parents are surprised (and happy!) that their kids can go to college. But they weren't expecting it, and they haven't been saving.
I'm happy to pull out the statistics that show how much more likely it is for people with various disabilities to be able to have jobs and live indepedently if they attend college. Just let me know how much of a case you want me to make. Here's the bottom line, though: we're trying to create a culture in which people can achieve their full potential. This is the foundation of basically all my politics.
Tom asked how much I wanted. I said, "I don't know!" He said to just tell him what I was thinking, so I said $500. Today he called to tell me that Subaru will be donating $1500 for a scholarship for the REACH Program.