[Nfbc-info] 2009 NFB Youth Slam

Serena Olsen starbellyserena at gmail.com
Sun Aug 2 18:48:14 UTC 2009

Hello my fellow Californians,

I am a little worse for wear, but my heart is full of pride and my
spirits are high in the wake of this year's NFB Youth Slam at the
University of Maryland.
After two layovers and two separate delays, I returned to Santa
Barbara late last night, five hours late and thoroughly exhausted
after at least eight consecutive days of minimal sleep and all day
activities that kept us constantly on the move.  I rested pretty well
last night and have a little coffee now, so I wanted to share a little
about how it went for those of you that weren't there.
I am happy to report that we had about 8 Californians as mentors and
instructors and three very lovely young ladies from our state, bright,
outgoing, and an asset to our great state and student division!
I was assigned to the Robotics track with two fantastic gals from
Texas and a darling member of the vast Georgia delegation that was
present.  In this track, students learned to program hi-tech Lego
robots with code that would move them in all directions and utilize
their light, sonar, and touch sensors.  Might I add also that of all
five pods on this track, my girls were the sole representatives of the
female of the species.  Not only were they engaged in blind science,
but they are pushing gender stereotypes as well...GO GIRLS!!
In other tracks, students were engaged in Green Living, water
conservation, architecture and design, journalism and media,
self-driving cars, solving crime with forensic science, sports and the
science of body movement and much more!
In the evenings, there was dancing, games, star gazing, yoga, and
more.  One night we all got to try a variety of extreme activities
such as riding a mechanical bull, a bungee trampoline, a tall
waterslide, a velcro sticky wall, a rock climbing wall, and a dunk
tank.  On Wednesday, we spent a day at the National Center for the
Blind in Baltimore, enjoying a press conference regarding litigation
being filed against Baltimore's school districts for failing to
accommodate their blind students, exhibits, workshops, tours of the
Center, trips to the NFB Store, and a showcase of some of our talented
youth.  The week culminated with a gathering at the Lincoln memorial
on Friday to kick off the first-ever Youth March for Independence,
including an address by Ever Lee Harriston, who was in the very same
spot with Dr. Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights Movement.  It
poured down rain for a few minutes and everyone got thoroughly soaked,
but it didn't dampen our spirits or deter us from making history--the
sun began to shine brightly as we began the 2 mile march past the
Washington Monument to the Capitol building for a gathering at the
Capitol Visitors Center.  That evening back at the dorms, the students
got a pizza party and danced their booties off with a DJ.  We were all
exhausted, but riding high on an extremely fun and successful week.
By early Saturday morning, the airport shuttle buses began to fill and
the dorms began to empty, bringing another Youth Slam to a successful
close.  By 6:41 AM, Amy Phelps had cried four times, she told me.  All
of us were looking forward to long periods of rest, but without the
tireless efforts of all the staff and coordinators, the drive and
motivation of mentors, the knowledge of instructors and
participitation of the students, it just wouldn't have been so great.
My heartfelt gratitude goes out to each and every one of us that made
it so special--staff, coordinators, mentors, instructors, and students
Dr. Z would be extremely proud of how we have continued to fulfill her
vision of empowering blind youth and developing the next generation of
leaders for our movement.  I strongly encourage you to visit
www.nfbyouthslam.org or www.blindscience.org to learn more.  The Slam
Media track did a fantastic job of reporting on the events and people
of the Slam and at the websites, you'll find blogs, podcasts, and
more, including interviews with me and Chris Downey, an architect from
the East Bay.
Youth Slam 2011 is undoubtedly already in the planning phase, so
please give consideration to sharing your time and energy as a mentor,
instructor, or volunteer at the next Slam, and by all means, if you or
someone you know will be a high school student in summer of 2011,
please come be a part of history, where when people say blind students
are told they can't be engineers, scientists, and athletes, we say

Serena Olsen, MAIPS
Braille Institute, volunteer
National Federation of the Blind, representative

Find me on Facebook!

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of
arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather
to skid in sideways, Grigio in one hand, strawberries in the other,
body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming, "Wah Hoo!
What a ride!"

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