Future Reflections  Convention Report 2006

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What Your Teen Could be Doing This Summer…

by Karen Zakhnini


Pull out the calendar and reserve July 30-August 4!

This summer, two hundred blind and low vision high school students will take part in the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Youth Slam, a four-day experiential academy designed by the NFB Jernigan Institute to empower the next generation of blind leaders, and we want your child to apply!

Has your child had difficulties with math or science subjects? Is your child interested in pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM)? Have you or your child been told that this is an impossible dream? Does your child feel isolated because of blindness? Does he/she need a successful blind role model to demonstrate that anything is possible? Does your child need some inspiration and motivation to follow his/her dreams? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the NFB Youth Slam is your answer!

The Youth Slam has three main goals: (1) to break the relative isolation of blind youth and show them that it is respectable to be blind; (2) to expose blind youth to STEM fields in a way that powerfully demonstrates that these fields are open to them, shattering some of the most significant barriers and misconceptions facing blind students; and (3) to create a better understanding among parents, teachers, and the general public that blind people can learn and excel in STEM subjects and careers.

Because blindness is a low-incidence disability, these students often believe that they are alone--many have never even met another blind individual. The Youth Slam offers a unique opportunity for these students to surround themselves with a network of blind mentors and friends, empowering them to follow their dreams.

During the Slam, students and mentors will participate in STEM-focused activities using hands-on techniques designed to stretch the imagination and increase science literacy. With the support of partners such as the Whiting School of Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), these activities are sure to be fun, challenging, and exciting!

Participants in the Youth Slam will also have the opportunity to attend seminars on various topics relating to blindness and careers. And don’t forget our social events! From a talent show to a dance and more, your child will have a blast! The Youth Slam will culminate in a rally at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and a march to the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute.

As an expansion of our Science Academy, the Youth Slam is sure to make an extraordinary impact on your child’s life and attitude. But don’t just take our word for it! Below are the comments of a few Science Academy students and parents:

[Science Academy] has given me the confidence in myself because I was able to see a lot of blind people who have been successful in science. Probably without this camp I would never get to meet such people.
--Andrew Wai, PA

Throughout the weeklong program, I learned skills that I will never forget. Seeing other successful blind people thriving in their lives truly inspired me… I believe we learned as much from each other as we did from the science portion. I constantly use the skills that I learned from the blind facilitators and teachers. They taught us lessons that will guide us for the rest of our lives.
--Hoby Wedler, CA

It was so good for Hoby to get away from me and find out for himself that, Yes! This is possible; I can do it; I can live a good life. It was being with all the [blind] people for a week and hearing their stories that was so important. Their energy and positive attitudes were passed on to Hoby. He realized that he, too, was going to make it in life. Again, thank you. Not only has he changed, but I, also, have changed by watching him this year. I can see now that everything will be okay.
--Terry Wedler, mother of Hoby

Don’t let your teen miss out on this unbelievable opportunity. Sign up now!

Interested students need to complete an application by April 1, 2007. Accepted applicants will be expected to pay a $200.00 registration fee to complete the application process. This payment is not required at the time of application to the Slam. You will be notified as to when it is due. This registration fee ensures the students will receive air and ground transportation, room and board, and access to all Slam activities and materials (valued at $3,000.00). Students can apply online at <www.blindscience.org>, or can receive an application by e-mailing <[email protected]> or by calling (410) 659-9314, extension 2451.

Each state affiliate of the NFB also has a Youth Slam coordinator. These coordinators are available locally to answer questions, to help find funds for the fee, and to help youth and families connect with other resources or find contact information for programs. Your coordinator can be found on the Youth Slam page at <www.blindscience.org>.

The NFB Jernigan Institute is working to help the next generation of blind youth change what it means to be blind. For more information regarding the Jernigan Institute education initiative, please contact Mark Riccobono, director of education, at <[email protected]> or (410) 659-9314, extension 2368.

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