Future Reflections                                                               Convention Report 2005

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“Hanging Out”—A Report on the Teen Hospitality Room

by Brigid Doherty

Two young girls stand with arms around each other.
Rachel Becker and Tiffany Foster (Iowa, Iowa) pause for a quick snapshot on their way to the teen room.

Editor’s Note: Anyone who has ever shopped the malls knows how important it is for teens to have a place to just “hang out.” The NOPBC provides such a place for teens at convention—we call it the Teen Hospitality Room. It is relaxed and casual enough to please the teens, but safe and supervised so it also pleases parents. The 2005 Teen Hospitality Room was coordinated by Brigid Doughty and her cadre of volunteers. In her “paid” job, Brigid coordinates services for blind students for the Fairfax Regional office of the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired. NOPBC was fortunate to get her as a volunteer and, because she is blind herself, Doughty is also a great role model for the teens. Here is her report:

The Teen Hospitality Room was a gathering place for teenagers both blind and sighted during our 2005 NFB Convention. We set aside a place for teens to meet for a few reasons. One, we want our teenagers to have a place to call their own during the convention—their own home away from home with one major difference: no parents allowed! Two, this setting provided them with the opportunity to get to know other teenagers at the convention and to speak freely about how they get along at home, in school, and in life generally. The discussions of blindness were not formal; the topic permeated other discussions, giving the teens a chance to learn, compare notes, make friends, and know that they are not alone. The room—a hotel suite rented by the NOPBC just for this purpose—was staffed with wonderful volunteers from across the country making sure things ran smoothly and spending time getting to know the teens. The volunteers were able to share some of their experiences in dealing with school, college, and life. The room was usually pretty noisy!

When parents are moving from meeting to meeting, scheduling every possible moment to connect with other NFB members, the Teen Room gives the teenagers a place to go, meet other teens, make some friends, and learn about the philosophy of the organization in a less formal way—through casual conversation, playing cards, hanging out with other teens both blind and sighted.

If you were a fly on the wall in the teen room, what would you have seen and heard?

The teens set the agenda—and the resounding feedback from them was “let us just hang out”—so that’s what they did. They are excellent at hanging out! And, in that hanging out time, they made some new friends, had some serious and ridiculous talks, learned a little more about the NFB, and had a place in that sprawling convention hotel that was their own.

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