While some wait for change to happen in their lifetime — people like Kayla McKeon are tired of waiting.
Being Kayla means having talent to no end.
She’s an advocate for millions who live with different abilities.
When she’s not public speaking, she may be training for the Special Olympics or hosting her podcast on Sound Cloud, “Kayla’s Korner.”
Kayla has spoken to crowds at elementary schools, high schools, colleges and several national events.
“I just love public speaking because it shows what I can do and not what I can’t do,” Kayla said.
Her powerful public speaking talents recently translated into yet another punch Kayla did not even know she had.
Kayla is the first registered lobbyist with Down syndrome.
“I interned with my local Congressman, John Katko, and went to a disability round-table with him and not knowing the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) was the host of it,” Kayla shared. “They offered me a job at the end of the meeting.”
Kayla currently works as the Manager for Grassroots Advocacy at the NDSS.
“I think it’s very rewarding that I’m on The Hill meeting so many people that I’m changing lives and sometimes I don’t realize that I am,” Kayla said.
When Kayla first started to volunteer for the NDSS, she found that having her voice heard in Washington, D.C., was a big deal.
“When I was sharing my life story, I got emotional and I started crying,” Kayla said. “I don’t know why it hit me so hard, but now, I go up and I speak to many members of Congress and now it’s all business.”
“All business” is really the only way to put it as Kayla pushes for rights she believes are long overdue. Among those rights, Kayla is focused on ending sub-minimum wage, which varies from state to state.
“People like me that are differently-abled or have Down syndrome are making $1.50 [an hour] and that is not fair to us,” Kayla said. “Down syndrome doesn’t hold me back — it’s old antiquated laws that do.”
Holding Kayla back is a phrase that does not fit well when talking about her goals.
As she vaults forward, Kayla is also pursuing her associate’s degree at Onondaga Community College.
“When I was in high school — I never dreamt I would go to college and now I am,” Kayla shared. “I see more of us that are differently-abled getting accepted in college. Working alongside our peers and just being able to connect with your peers and your professor that’s where I saw an inclusive setting. We’re all college students. We’re all learning the same thing.”
On the OCC campus, Kayla may just be another college student, but off campus, she is using her abilities and reaching new heights to make a difference for generations that follow her.