Perspective From the President: Scholarships, National Convention, and More

President Riccobono stands in front of the NFB Headquarters

Perspective From the President: Scholarships, National Convention, and More

By Mark Riccobono

Greetings, fellow Federationists,

March is a busy time in the federation. We have many award applications due in March, including our National Federation of the Blind scholarship applications, which are due March 31. I encourage you to promote this program, which is the largest scholarship program for blind students going into college and beyond. Our program brings so much more than just the merit-based financial awards. We also offer the connection with the National Federation of the Blind, and mentoring from successful blind professionals. There’s less than a month left to get those scholarship applications in. Find out more on our our scholarship application page.

Our most important event coming up is the 2024 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind! National Convention is meaningful on many different levels. First and foremost, The national Convention is the supreme authority of the organization. This is how we run our national movement, set policies, elect our Board of Directors, and set direction for the organization. National convention is also the largest concentration of the collective wisdom and authenticity of the blind community. It's a tremendous opportunity to share ideas and to continue raising our expectations for ourselves.

Every convention brings something new. It brings a lift in spirit, in expectations. It broadens my perspective about where we can go and the heights that we can reach as blind people, and most importantly, it refuels my tank for the year ahead. Whatever discrimination, frustrations, and condescending attitudes that I have experienced over the previous fifty-one weeks of the year will all be erased by being at national convention—getting that shot of hope that comes from our annual family reunion.

Great things happen when we come together at convention. Our conventions are successful because of the work of hundreds of members, volunteers, and our tremendous staff, all coming together to make it possible. The theme for our 2024 National Convention is "Believe, Dream, Include, Lead, Champion". These are our brand values, so we decided to use them as the baseline for our 2024 National Convention, which will be held July 3 through July 8 at the Rosen Center in sunny Orlando, Florida!

Register today on our convention landing page. Online registration is twenty-five dollars, and banquet tickets are seventy-five dollars. Online registration does save you a few dollars, and is open through May 31. If you have questions or difficulties with the registration process, email [email protected].

Room rates are as follows: singles and doubles are 129 dollars per night. Triples and quads are 139 dollars per night. This does not include occupancy taxes and surcharges, which are an additional 13.5 percent. Make your reservation by calling the hotel at 1-800-204-7234. When you call, you should ask for the NFB Convention block. The hotel will take a deposit of 146 dollars to hold your reservation. That is required as part of our contract.

I also want to share some important convention details. As always, the NFB convention ambassadors will assist in making the 2024 National Convention a welcoming and empowering experience for all attendees. Ambassadors play an important role in sharing accurate information, providing access to information at key locations within the convention, and generally serving as a positive influence on the convention. Our ambassadors are all volunteer members who take on assignments to help all convention attendees, whether it's your first or your fiftieth convention, to have a great experience. We are creating a very simple application process for members to apply to serve as convention ambassadors. Individuals will be appointed to the committee before national convention and will receive information and training from our committee co-chairs, Dan Birk of Colorado, and Corb O'Connor. Hats off to them for a lot of great work that happens behind the scenes.

We value people who want to attend the NFB National Convention for the first time, and our Kenneth Jernigan Fund provides financial support to help people do just that. This program has been going for twenty-five years now. That's a lot of impact on helping elevate expectations for blind people. I particularly love interacting with our first timers, whether it's at the Rookie Roundup, coming across people in the hallways or exhibit halls, or having folks visit in the presidential suite. In 2023, the very first person to come by the presidential suite when the door swung open was a first-timer. Applications are due on April 15, and you must also reach out to your affiliate president for a letter of recommendation as part of your application. So April 15 is your deadline. You can find details for the application, as well as our First-Timers’ Guide, on our Convention landing page.

We have previously shared concerns that some of our members have about the travel advisories that civil rights organizations have shared about the state of Florida. I'd like to update you on our commitment to do everything we can to support the participation of members in our convention who feel that the state of Florida is not safe and welcoming to them.

We are launching the National Federation of the Blind Convention Ally Network (CAN) to demonstrate our positive approach to sharing and uplifting our members who might need the support of the Federation family in places like Florida. The goal of this network is to specifically help facilitate the participation in our convention, and to support those individuals who may feel unsafe because of the laws that have been adopted in the state of Florida. You can sign up to be either a convention ally or someone who is receiving support from the Convention Ally Network. We need both groups to sign up. If you want to participate in either capacity, please sign up on our national convention landing page (above). The form is really easy, and I know that because I’ve already signed up.

Submissions will be confidential, and we will train allies on how to make their part of the network and their allyship effective. The network is not intended to replace the great work that our affiliates already do to support first-time attendees and blind people, newly blind people in getting out and to the convention and learning to travel with a long white cane and that sort of thing. So all of the work of our affiliates and divisions and chapters to get people involved in the convention, and the experience still stands. This Convention Ally Network is specifically to help support those who want to be at the convention despite their concerns about safety because of laws in the state of Florida. I hope you'll take a moment to become a Convention Ally and sign up for support if you need it.

You can listen to the full Presidential Release on our in our archives.