2016 AYF Midwest Junior Conferences
By U. Areknaz Khaligian
On Saturday, November 5, AYF juniors from Chicago and Racine gathered in Racine for the annual Midwest Junior Conference. Their day began at 10am with a Lahmajun cooking educational. Almost 100 delicious Lahmajuns were made from scratch and eaten for lunch!
In the afternoon, the juniors held their conference. They began by discussing three pertinent topics: chapter meetings, chapter events, and regional events. Both chapters found that meeting attendance was roughly two-thirds of the membership, and meeting length was usually under one hour. Attendees considered both meeting attendance and length to be acceptable, but identified a significant issue of members failing to remember what was discussed at meetings.
First the chapters described their local AYF events which gave a good insight into how other chapters operate. Then, working together, the juniors discussed the positive and negative aspects of the various regional events that take place throughout the year. Jr. Seminar, of course, was a favorite event, with mostly positive aspects: seeing/making friends and learning from interesting lectures. Some suggestions they had for improvement included better food, and focusing on making lectures as interactive as possible. Jr. Summer Olympics also received mostly positive feedback: juniors enjoy seeing their friends from other chapters and competing in events. Not only did they enjoy competing in events, it was also noted that there is always excellent sportsmanship displayed where athletes are not judged by their level of performance. There were mixed feelings regarding track practices leading up to the event with some attendees suggesting that track practices begin earlier and others calling for less track practices. Furthermore, it was suggested that additional events be incorporated into the weekend, such as tennis, soccer or baseball. One negative aspect that everyone agreed on was diminished attendance by chapters who are not hosting. To give some background, the Midwest Jr. Summer Olympics usually takes place in July, and is hosted by a different Midwest chapter each year. Attendees of the conference concluded that two main factors of this decrease in attendance for non-host chapters is primarily due to traveling distance as well as reluctance to attend if close friends are not attending. While attendees acknowledged that traveling distance is sometimes difficult to address, they concluded that being a member of the AYF should be sufficient motivation to attend AYF events and that seeing friends is an added bonus, not a determining factor. The final two events that were discussed, Jr. Winter Olympics and Jr. Conferences, received similar feedback. Both events have the positive aspects of seeing friends and participating in the weekend’s activities. One suggestion they had for Jr. Winter Olympics was to incorporate more chapter competitions similar to Jr. Summer Olympics in addition to the inter-chapter games that are usually organized. The main negative aspect of these two events was also attendance. In addition to traveling distance and reluctance to attend based on other friends attending, conference attendees identified another major factor. They concluded that since both Jr. Conferences and Jr. Winter Olympics are smaller events, compared to Jr. Summer Olympics and Jr. Seminar, it is less of a priority for Midwest juniors. Furthermore, events taking place in local communities often take priority over these two events. Conference attendees concluded that it is difficult to solve these types of issues, but since the events are rewarding for those who do attend, it is important to continue to have them.
After these discussions, attendees learned more about procedures and components of the official AYF Convention which is attended by seniors in their local chapters. First, they went over different types of votes and the general protocol for resolutions. To practice these procedures, they read through resolutions which were written based on their previous discussions and voted on them. These included: “Whereas in the past attendance at Jr. Conferences has been low, be it resolved that it is canceled”, “Whereas in the past members have forgotten what was discussed at meetings, be it resolved that the meeting minutes be read aloud at the end of each meeting”. Neither of these resolutions were passed, but attendees learned the importance of asking questions and making informed voting decisions, practiced using different types of votes, and realized the benefit of discussing positive and negative aspects of a resolution and whether they actually solve the problem that is being addressed.
At the end of the conference, the juniors were able to see the Family History books that they created. At last year’s Jr. Conferences, it was decided that the Midwest juniors would submit their family stories to be compiled in a book, and this year they were able to see the final product!
After a hard day of work, attendees were able to enjoy the beautiful fall day with games outside and the event concluded with a toasty bonfire and s’mores!