Everyone has a voice. And it matters how they use it.
Sheina Showen, a school nurse in Hermantown, decided to use her voice to support the epilepsy community and Seizure Smart Schools Legislation. She does not have epilepsy, but has been a much-needed advocate for classroom trainings. She’s able to give the unique view of someone who works in schools and is an authority on student health.
Advocacy, whether in the classroom, at the state capitol, or on social media, needs voices from the entire epilepsy community. That’s people with seizures, parents or caregivers, siblings, friends, school nurses, and more.
“It [Epilepsy Advocacy Day at the Capitol] really reminded me that this community needs a voice and it needs as many people speaking out as possible. I was just happy to help out, and it felt extremely empowering to sit down and be listened to,” says Olivia Devaraj, a student with epilepsy.
Sheina joined Epilepsy Advocacy Day at the Capitol in 2020 to talk about the importance of Seizure Smart Schools Legislation and ask her elected representatives for their support. She sees how more awareness and education changes lives.
“More than once, I have had a school staff member talk to me after a Seizure Smart School training to discuss concerns that one of their students may be having seizures. From there, I have been able to talk with the child’s caregiver about contacting their doctor, which then led to a diagnosis of epilepsy. If it had not been for the Seizure Smart Schools training, these diagnoses may have been delayed or not found,” says Sheina.
Stories like these, such as children being diagnosed thanks to greater awareness, is how change happens. They’re powerful, but only get told when people use their voice.
“We cannot expect our legislators to know why specific legislative actions are important to their constituency if we do not take the time to tell our stories, ask for their support, and continue to advise for a change in our community and state,” says Trisha Zeller, mother to a child with epilepsy.
Sheina didn’t come to the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota (EFMN) looking to become an advocate for the community. She simply understood the value in making sure teachers and staff knew how to respond if a student had a seizure. Caring about students turned her into an epilepsy advocate.
It was 2014 when she first learned of EFMN. Now, she’s served as an advocate in the classroom and at Advocacy Day at the Capitol, a member of the Duluth Regional Advisory Committee, and is a new member of our Professional Advisory Board, made up of professionals in the medical field who advise us on programs, services, and medical updates.
Sheina’s advocacy continues to take her new places. But she still thinks back to the importance of Epilepsy Advocacy Day at the Capitol and listening to people with epilepsy and parents/caregivers share their stories with lawmakers.
“I enjoyed being able to witness people coming together to support one another in a common cause. It was truly inspiring to see people sharing their stories and experiences with lawmakers to strive for a better future for others. The impact these personal stories made was incredible,” says Sheina.