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Smithhisler gains advocacy experience in D.C.

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Hadley Smithhisler ’20 went from participating a summer program at George Washington’s home to living and working in Washington, D.C.

In between, the accomplished Monmouth College senior enjoyed a semester in France, studying at the Université De Franche Comté in Besançon.

Smithhisler spent the most recent summer as a participant in a program sponsored by the Fund for American Studies, where she was an intern with the National Down Syndrome Society’s National Advocacy & Public Policy Center. The center supports the National Down Syndrome Society’s mission to be the leading human rights organization for individuals with Down syndrome by advocating for federal, state and local policies that positively impact people with Down syndrome across the country.

Smithhisler attended meetings with legislators, advocating for Down syndrome-related laws in such areas as equality, Medicare/Medicaid benefits and organ transplants. She also accompanied employees with Down syndrome on visits to Capitol Hill and used her strong background in French to translate informational flyers.

Along the way, Smithhisler connected with the two individuals who are the first and second registered lobbyists with Down syndrome.

“Awareness is a huge part of what NDSS does,” she said. “There are many who think of those with Down syndrome as fragile, incapable people – just sweet and docile. But they’re incredibly capable people.”

This was the second summer Smithhisler participated in a highly selective summer program. In 2018, she took part in the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Program in Fairfax County, Virginia.

A history and French major, Smithhisler plans to attend law school next year, primarily to gain experience for social justice and advocacy work.

“Having a law degree is an incredibly powerful element to have for that type of work,” said Smithhisler, who has twice won the Top Advocate honor at the College’s annual moot court competition.

Another impactful part of her Fund for American Studies program was an economics class she took at George Mason University.

“It was an economics problems and public policy course,” she said. “We took basic microeconomics principles but looked at them through a public policy lens. It was a new way to solve problems and find solutions that we might not have considered.”

With her full plate of off-campus experiences, Smithhisler clearly adjusts well to new surroundings. Still, she appreciated that her Monmouth roommate, Kasha Appleton ’20 of Chicago, was nearby during the summer. Appleton had an internship at the Smithsonian Institute.

“We were just two Metro stops apart,” said Smithhisler. “We had a great time.”