Throughout my youth, I have always had an interest in gaining experience through various volunteering opportunities. Within these roles, I was often the only one with a visual impairment, often leading to me having to find a way to ensure that each experience I sign up for was accessible for me. I had always heard of the Youth Leadership training program from my vision teacher, and it had interested me right from the get go. Learning skills that will allow me to build confidence and be a more effective leader sounded incredibly valuable to me. I wanted to give it a try, but school, prior volunteering engagements, and extra curricular actives didn’t leave me with much time to sign up for the program.
A few years pass, and like everyone else, I find myself stuck at home due to the restrictions from the pandemic. Many volunteering opportunities were closed for the mean time, but I wanted to find something that I could try my hand at. It was during the fall of 2020 that one of my good friends from university suggested signing up for the virtual Blind Beginnings Leadership training. I was stoked to learn that the training program was continuing despite all the issues the pandemic had brought on. I decided to go for it, and eagerly waited to meet my fellow trainers, and the amazing staff that was running the program.
But honestly, I was a little nervous as well. Since I had always been around sighted people my entire life, I never really had the opportunity to spend time with a group of other youth that were also visually impaired. One thing that I had always heard about the Youth Leadership programs were the lasting friendships and connections that people made out of them, and I wondered if the new online setting would not allow for that as much.
Right from the beginning, however, I was proven wrong. Within each and every session, we had plenty of opportunities to chat, collaborate, and get to know one another. One aspect of the training that I found incredibly valuable was getting the chance to meet various guest speakers that shared their professional and personal experiences with us. I have to say that for the first time in my life, I felt fully included, and I knew right away that I was going to love volunteering with this organization.
It’s been a year since my Youth Leader training, and within that time, I have countless opportunities to put the skills that I learned during my training to use. I have been volunteering with programs such as Creating Connections and the Limitless Blog and Podcast. Each of these programs have taught me so much. I have gotten to lead and organize Creating Connections meetings, interview some wonderful guests for the podcast, develop my writing skills by writing for the blog, and have the privilege to represent my fellow youth leaders as the Youth Representative on the Blind Beginnings Board of Directors.
The Blind Beginnings community has introduced me to incredible people that I now have the privilege of calling my close friends. I have only been a part of the Blind Beginnings family for a year, but the support and learning opportunities that I have received here have been insurmountable, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.