By Frank Vascellaro


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A rainy day and a two-hour drive were not going to stop 16-year-old Darcey Hayes from making it to the Minnesota State Capitol. She marched in to meet her state representative, Ron Kresha.

“You can’t really say that you’ve been to the Capitol very often,” Hayes said.

The sophomore from Upsala is the president of the PACER Youth Advisor Board. She’s not allowed to lobby or talk about legislation, but she can share how special education works.

“I’m able to come to these big places and be able to share my story and be able to get support, and let the small-town voices be heard,” Hayes said.

PACER Center enhances the quality of life and expands opportunities for children and young adults with all disabilities, so each person can reach his or her highest potential.

Darcey Hayes in the Minnesota State Capitol (credit: CBS)

Rep. Kresha, a four-term Republican, is on the Education Finance Committee, but he used to be a teacher and worked in special education.

“We hear so many issues down here, but when I have a story that comes from someone like you, that really brings meaning and it helps us really bring that to life and make it a reality, so I really appreciate the stories that you bring,” Kresha said to Hayes.

Hayes feels like a totally different person thanks to PACER.

“I feel amazing. I mean, I have friends, which I never really thought I would have,” Hayes said. “I’m doing really good in school. I’m able to do extra circular things. I’m in my robotics team, I’m in knowledge bowl, I’m in FFA. I mean, I do so many things that I never thought I would be able to do.”

“When we can find groups like PACER that really get to those child issues and help them with their potential and really being who they can be, that’s something we need to keep pushing for in St Paul,” Kresha said.

The PACER Center annual benefit is Saturday, May 11 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. There will be a special performance by the Beach Boys. WCCO-TV’s Frank Vascellaro and Amelia Santaniello will emcee the event.

Frank Vascellaro

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