Mădălina Turza

Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow 2016-2017

My Humphrey Year is about CHANGE

Hi! My name is Madalina Turza, proud Humphrey Alumna and President of the European Center for the Rights of Children with Disabilities in Romania. My Humphrey Fellowship started in August 2016 with a deep breath and a bold step towards an experience that proved to be life-changing on so many levels. It’s not an easy thing to decide to put your life on hold when you are a mid-career professional and to follow your dream over the Ocean.

With my mind full of ideas and my heart full of hope I landed in Minnesota, USA, as a Humphrey International Fellow at the University of Minnesota – Humphrey School of Public Affairs. I had the privilege to be part of a wonderful academic and Program team and to pursue my Humphrey Fellowship in the home State of its Founder – Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey.

Learning and sharing
My academic and professional goals related to this program were very clear. I knew that I want to expand my knowledge and understanding of the inclusive education system for children with disabilities in the USA. Since Romania is still facing numerous challenges when it comes to starting the desegregation process, the American model of Less Restrictive Environment in Education (LRE) and Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) were two of my major research interests.

Given my academic interests, I had the opportunity to pursue a postgraduate Certificate in Disability Policy and Services at the College of Education and Human Development – University of Minnesota. This is how I could develop my academic knowledge in public policy analysis, development programs, leadership, systems of teaching in inclusive settings, disability and special education law, as well as in Project Management and Negotiation. The postgraduate academic experience in USA enabled me to have access to the state of the art knowledge and research in disability and inclusive education, and moreover I had the chance to enjoy a flexible, student-centered, high standard and pragmatic academic system, where the only limit is the one set by yourself.

My Humphrey academic year was also about sharing my knowledge and experience at various conferences, seminars and workshops. As part of my academic work at the University of Minnesota, I had the chance to elaborate an in-depth public policy analysis of a fundamental piece of legislation in disability in USA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Identifying gaps and mitigation strategies to a complex American law, for me it was a great challenge and it pushed my professional and academic limits.

Moreover, I had the chance to design an advocacy campaign project for the direct care professionals’ wage increase in Minnesota, called “Care for Carers”, which is meant to raise the support for those who work in the disability services. As well, as part of my Professional Affiliation at PACER Center, the largest parent advocates organization in USA, I was able to draft a Parent Advocate Guide for the parents of children with disabilities in Romania and Minnesota. The Guide has already been translated into Romanian and soon my organization in Romania and PACER Center will launch the booklet together.

This was a small way of giving back to a community that warmly welcomed me and shared its knowledge and wisdom with me.

International advocacy for the Romanian children with disabilities
My Humphrey year in the USA gave me the opportunity to speak at the United Nations Headquarters twice and to advocate for the rights of children with disabilities in Romania and Eastern Europe in the framework of the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As well, the cause of children with disabilities in Romania and the challenges of litigation for their rights were topics approached and discussed in various high-level meetings that I had at the US Department of State, at the Federal Court in Minnesota and at the Governor Office.

The most amazing year in my daughter’s life
Clara, my 12 years daughter with Down Syndrome joined me in the USA during my Fellowship year. For Clara, this year was her first year in school. An inclusive school, where the teachers and students welcomed her and made her part of a larger community that gave her confidence, new abilities and her very first words in English. At North East Middle School in Minneapolis, Clara became bilingual and through the support of a dedicated team of 10 professionals she flourished. For the first time in our lives, we felt that Clara is important for the community and people really believe in her potential.

I am grateful for this amazing experience and I hope that the legacy of Hubert H. Humphrey will further continue to create agents of change across the world, united around a common set of values.

I could not leave USA without saying THANK YOU Mr. Vice President Humphrey!

My fulbright experience

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Students at the advising center

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Romanian-U.S. Fulbright Commission

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E-mail: office@fulbright.ro

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