by Garrick Scott
From the Editor: Garrick Scott is president of the NFB of Georgia. He often serves as a mentor in our programs for young people because he has a way of communicating with them in terms that they understand and respect. In the following brief article he offers some suggestions to those who would like to attract young people to their chapters and affiliates. This is what he says:
All NFB leaders over the age of forty raise your hands. Yes, that includes you. It is not a bad thing to be forty, but it is an age when we should consider those who are substantially younger than us. Why should we be giving them special consideration? Because they are the future of our organization, and we should do all we can to make them into leaders.
In this article I hope to give you a recipe that will help you recruit and include young people in your chapters and affiliates. Unlike traditional recipes, I'm going to list ingredients that you should avoid as well as those you should include. I am by no means claiming to be the Wolfgang Puck of working with young people, but I have found a recipe that works for me. Now here are those ingredients:
1 cup condescending talk: No matter how much experience we have, we must remember that people who are younger than we also want to be treated with respect. Many are already adults in the eyes of the law. We may have experience from which they can benefit, but being condescending in the way we present whatever wisdom the years have given us will repel rather than attract young people.
1 cup nostalgia: Young people aren't interested in hearing that you knew them when they were toddlers clinging to their mothers’ pant legs or recollections of their participation in their first Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, Junior Science Academy, or Youth Slam. No way. These people are now young adults, and recollections of those years are as interesting to them as you would find a discussion of your receding hairline or expanding waistline. There will be time to reminisce, but now we have work to do, and they want to be a part of it.
2 cups openmindedness: They will have thoughts and ideas that you may find a little risky or time consuming. Sometimes we just have to allow them an opportunity to fail or succeed on the merit of their ideas. Either way they will grow in confidence or wisdom, depending on the outcome of their endeavors.
2 cups friendship: Engage in activities and conversation that have little to do with what you want them to learn but lots to do with what they want for themselves and what experiences you have had that might relate to it. Avoid asking questions only about what they are going to do with their future. Concentrate on what they are doing now. Don't act like their grandfather. Students want your friendship more than your advice.
2 cups interest: Find out what they like to do. Most of them are on Facebook and Twitter, things that may be foreign to you. But we get excited when people show an interest in the things we like. These young people are just the same.
1 cup foreign language: Some may assume I mean Spanish, French, German, or one of the Asian languages, but no, I mean pop culture as in Hip Hop. Just as you want young people to have some appreciation for the terms used by your generation, you should know terms such as the following to get you started:
"Get sick widit"—you did a great job.
"Trippin"—you're not following the plan or are acting silly,
"Going hem (pronounced ham)” —going crazy or getting extremely angry. This phrase is taken from the word “mayhem.”
“Stacks on deck"—you have a large supply of money, or you have money to burn.
"Rents"—Living with parents.
5 cups philosophy and history: We want our students to understand and appreciate the time, energy, and money that have been contributed to this organization. If we are to make the most of these gifts given us, we must give back with equal generosity. We are an organization built on paying it forward. Thanks to those who came before us, we now understand that it is respectable to be blind. To quote Dr. Jernigan loosely, “They know where they came from, and they won't go back."
This recipe involves a lot of my grandmother's style of cooking: you measure with guestimation. Some students will need a little more of one thing than another. But if you use the recipe thoughtfully and carefully, the result will be a nice batch of future leaders.
One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the Blind to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB is not merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.
Seize the Future
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