First time advocate Aaron Connolly was eager to campaign for global access to vaccines and make his voice heard during his first Shot@Life Spring Summit. As a second-year master’s student at Cornell University, he highlighted how his advocacy work has shaped his interest in the policy side of public health.
Aaron Connolly: I came to Shot@Life as a master’s student in public health at Cornell University. My current roommate in the hotel, Parshad, did it last year and said it was a great experience. I wanted to come to D.C. and advocate, especially for great topics focusing on accessibility to vaccines, equity, and eradicating diseases.
It was a little bit nerve-wracking, but my Hill lead, Cara, did a great job of getting me prepared and giving us a cheat sheet on what each representative is looking for so we would be prepared to present our pitch. At the end, it was routine, and you feel a lot more confident speaking with the representatives.
My proudest moment has been getting more confident, especially throughout the day. By the end, everything was like a routine and flowed a lot more. I definitely felt a connection with my members of Congress. It was a really cool experience, especially to do it for two states — Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Hearing both representatives agree with what we were saying and open to staying in communication was a pleasant experience.
Especially for something like polio that’s 99.9% eradicated, it’s important to get to 100%. You can’t do 99.9% of an iPhone download, you have to do the whole 100. There’s more to vaccines than just making them, there’s also administering them and making sure everyone can get proper vaccines.
I can apply my advocacy to the policy classes I’m taking. I’ve also found policy a lot more interesting as I look to future careers and finish my master’s in public health. I found that this was a really good experience, and I would like to do it again. I met a lot of great people, and it was super fun walking to the House and throughout D.C.
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