Youth Ambassador Program
We all know how expensive attending a regional event can be, especially if your region is large. There is the cost of the hotel, transportation to the event, and of course the registration for the event. There are also additional costs involved, such as additional meals, photography expenses, etc. Multiply this by 3 or 4 to attend a National Convention! Sometimes, the costs are even higher. Many times these expenses are just too much to allow a youth member to attend.
Just what is a youth ambassador? A youth ambassador is a member of the American Iris Society, chosen by their region to be a representative at the AIS National Convention. It is up to the individual regions to decide the criteria necessary to implement this program.
Hopefully, the region would award their representative enough money to attend the AIS National Convention and help defray expenses, whether it is paying for the full registration, a few days of hotel costs, or travel expenses. I know that many regions are small, and funding an event such as this would be prohibitive, but perhaps members of those regions would help to sponsor ONE youth member with donations from each affiliate. In this way, everyone would share the costs. If your region has 501C(3) status, you could start a fund to honor a longtime member and place the donations into that fund.
At this time, I know that Region 14 sponsors two or more youth members with scholarships in order for these youth members to attend their regional meeting. Region 15 pays the cost of registration for youth members to attend their regional meetings. I know many other regions have their own youth awards.
Each region will decide how to choose their representative. Perhaps it could be an essay contest .... "Why I Would Be An Excellent Region Representative", or nomination by an adult member .....'I nominate Youth Member because they ahve been such a wonderful addition to our club, helping at meetings, sales and shows.' Maybe you've attended another club's meeting and been impressed by a youth member. There are endless possibilities. It can be as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. Region officers, including the affiliate Presidents, would make the choice.
You could give your Youth Ambassador disposable cameras to take to the Convention. CDs can be made from these disposable cameras with which the Youth Ambassador could design a program that they would present to the different clubs individually or at a Region meeting, as a condition of their convention attendance. The Youth Ambassador could write an article for the Region newsletter/AIS Bulletin. Seeing an event from the perspective of a youth member could be very interesting, especially siince we all know that adults attending an event have different insights into what occurred.
This idea is in the infant stages -- many questions need to be addressed. I hope you will think seriously about this idea. Take it to your region/affiliates meetings, talk about it, express the pros and cons (one of the key questions might be who would be responsible for the youth member ... parent, guardian, RVP, and how would they pay for their expenses?, how many days would they attend -- garden tours only?)
Portland would be a wonderful opportunity for a youth member to attend. If you know of an AIS Youth member who will be attending the National Convention, perhaps the Region takes a chance by partly funding their trip in exchange for a program by the Youth member. Clubs could hold bake sales, car washes, or even get a local business to help with funding. Just think about it, that's all I'm asking.
I would like to see some type of program for a Youth Ambassador in EVERY region. Maybe not on the National level, but at least on the regional level. We need to get these youth members more involved at the Regional level, attending Spring or Fall meetings, holding club offices, helping on committees, which in turn will help them to get involved at the National level. The more involved they become while youth members, the chances of them remaining involved as adults improves. Youth members are the future of AIS. Without them we will be nothing but an ageing organization going downhill fast.
Let me know what you think about this. Share your ideas, even the negative ones. We do not have to have the same program in every region. Just as we are different, so are the affiliates and regions that make up the American Iris Society. What works for one club may not be good for another club. Give the idea a chance, that's all I'm asking.