Overcoming the Age Gap

by Sara Conrad

At the affiliate presidents' meeting this February, I had the honor of presenting on the topic of younger membership across our organization. We discussed the problem as well as possible solutions to not only encourage recruitment of students but also to retain their membership.  We had many strong suggestions for ways all affiliates can work together to decrease the age gap influence in ACB for a brighter future.
ACB Students offers a variety of opportunities for affiliates to join with us in such efforts. The first is our Adopt a Student program, which is being implemented this year for the first time. This program offers a collaborative effort on all levels between our student affiliate and other special-interest or state affiliates.
Another program, which will be in its second year this July, is our scholarship mentoring program. This program strives to link national scholarship winners with ACB affiliates. We hope to have more of a joint effort this year across the organization in order to successfully retain our students.
Additionally, ACB Students offers other connective resources such as our web site (www.acbstudents.org), our general e-mail list, Twitter and Facebook, and conference calls. It is our hope that our fellow affiliates will collaborate with us using these various opportunities to encourage students.
Another resource mentioned in my presentation was focused on in-person contact. Our members are scattered throughout the country and are eager to assist with local student programs and efforts. I am pleased and honored that I will be at the Bay State conference in April to help renew their student chapter. It is our hope in ACB Students that other affiliates will reach out to us for such possibilities in order to directly assist one another.
Beyond such resources offered in my presentation, we discussed the importance of making student membership a priority in our organization. We have only a small number of students and young people involved in ACB, inferring a limited number of future leaders and members. While all affiliates experience the burdens of restricted money and time, we must make this a priority. We do many wonderful things in our organization, but if we lack people to continue such efforts in the future, we fail.
In addition to priorities, I expressed the great need for communication. There is an obvious disconnect between affiliates in our organization, a disconnect that challenges the possibilities for collaboration. The problems of student membership cannot be overcome with such separation. Students must be networked between both ACB Students and other affiliates. This includes both state and other special-interest groups. Students need the connections of every aspect in ACB in order to find a sustaining place.
Finally, I am fully aware that this issue is a concern of all affiliates. Many leaders expressed very troubled and raw situations regarding the age gap issue. We must work together throughout the year to continue the efforts suggested at conferences. It is my sincere hope that we do not continue to have "mountain top" experiences after such presentations in which we lose enthusiasm upon returning home. Our organization's future depends upon immediate action on this issue. Together, we have the chance to make ACB a vibrant place to which all ages belong.
I look forward to working together. Please contact me, Sara Conrad, at President.ACBStudents@gmail.com.