February 13 was Autism Awareness Day at the legislature, and to highlight the challenges faced by kids with autism, Carl hosted two very special pages (and one Very Special Grownup Guest, too): Caitlin Herrera, her best friend Andrea Alarid and her grown up helper, Rebecca Baca.
Caitlin and Andrea are each 10 years old, and both of them had a lot of fun at the Roundhouse. They were each introduced by Carl on the House floor, and then spent the day learning about state government and being Carl’s helpers.
Caitlin is 10 years old in 4th grade at Kearny Elementary. We all have particular challenges in life and Caitlin’s is that she’s autistic. But that doesn’t stop her from doing what she loves to do, including music, singing and loving cats.
Andrea Alarid is 10 years old and attends Wood Gormley Elementary. She loves math and science and thinks maybe she’d like to be a Bio Chemical Engineer when she grows up — which was really fun for Carl because he works as a scientist when he’s not at the legislature representing us. In her free time, Andrea likes doing crafts and volleyball.
Accompanying the girls was Caitlin’s education assistant, Rebecca Baca. Rebecca is an inspiring example of a community member who figured out that one of the most rewarding things we can do in this world is to help others. She started as a substitute teacher and, one day, accepted an assignment as a special needs aide, where she found her life’s passion in working as an assistant for kids with autism and other special needs.
In addition to the experience that Caitlin and Andrea had, Caitlin’s class got to enjoy the day with them by watching the webcast from their school. (Did you know you can watch the legislature on webcast? Tune in here.)
As part of Autism Awareness Day, Caitlin, Andrea and Rebecca all wore beautiful, brightly colored “Autism Speaks” scarves, and as you can see from the photo, they presented Carl with one as well.
Caitlin’s mom, Liz Valdez, who is also a dedicated autism citizen activist, shared with me a bit about Caitlin’s experience as a page. “I was so very proud of Caitlin for doing so well. She was treated with respect, and I am so thankful that Representative Trujillo was willing to sponsor the three of them.”