Involving Youth in ACB, compiled by Ardis Bazyn

Our January membership focus call topic was "Involving youth in ACB." Participants on the call were asked to share some of the ways their affiliates had reached youth to attend their convention. One of the first suggestions was offering scholarships to students to attend conventions. It was also recommended that students be invited to participate in special programs or panels that relate more to students such as technology, education, and employment based sessions.

Another mentioned having events including free food as well as an activity that teens or college-aged youth might like. Some fun activities suggested were: tandem bike rides, nature hikes, bowling, game night, book club, pizza party, and social gatherings. If possible, chapters or affiliates could pay transportation costs for students to attend some activities particularly geared to youth. Freebies and door prizes are often an additional incentive to come to an event/meeting.

Some affiliates do invite students to apply for college or tech school scholarships. It was suggested that a note on the application could state they will be contacted by the affiliate membership committee. Applicants could be contacted later to invite them to local chapter meetings and the affiliate convention.

An affiliate can create social networking groups that might interest younger people. In this way, older members can mentor younger ones by answering questions posed by others or asking for advice on Facebook on youth-related subjects, such as accessible accommodations for taking SAT tests. In order to use Twitter, Facebook, and other networking sites, you could ask your younger members whether they would be interested in working on this or another youth-oriented project that is related to their major.

You can also contact universities, colleges, technical institutes, and high schools to find blind and visually impaired youth. Get in touch with the disabled student services coordinators and ask them to distribute flyers or letters to blind and visually impaired students. You also could plan a seminar for visually impaired students on local campuses. If there are several visually impaired students on one campus, a blind club or blind support group could be established.

Also consider asking a younger person to be the membership chair or a member of the committee. Missouri has a new younger chair. Gretchen is willing to have members contact her by e-mail, gmaune@socket.net. Your affiliate could also ask for volunteers from college organizations such as Delta Gamma to assist at functions.

Your affiliate or chapter may want to consider having business meetings separated from your programs, activities, or speakers. Some youth might be more willing to attend a particular part of your agenda. Be sure to greet all newcomers and ask them to participate in a committee or particular function. You could arrange a conference call for younger people with a focus topic. Also contact vocational rehabilitation counselors and give them flyers about your chapter and affiliate. Tell them about scholarships, speakers you invite to your meetings, and mentoring and networking opportunities. Scholarships from your local chapter can be small, enough for a lunch or night activity.

When a new semester begins, you could give a presentation for visually impaired students and their families. After the presentation, you can connect with them. You can try to meet blind children through VI teachers. If you get involved in e-mail lists, you can find younger members too. There are blindness-related groups on Yahoo groups, Google groups, and through the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB).

You can offer affiliate calls and find other ways to network with students and have youth awareness programs. You can elect younger people to your state or local chapter's board of directors. You can provide invitations to join to members so they can give these with flyers.

You could consider adding a check box for age on your convention registration to use to send information to students. Members need to give students a reason to identify with blind people - make us seem cool. A buddy system could be arranged for new people at meetings and conventions. There should be a link from the NABS web site to the Facebook account. Other affiliates could link to Facebook as well. There could be an affiliate announce list for students. Many students ask, "What's in it for me?" We have to give them reasons to join us. We have to also show interest in them when they do attend an event. We could share our own mentorship experiences with one another. For other assistance on involving younger members, check the membership resources on the ACB web site. The next membership focus call will be held April 25; we will be discussing how to retain members.