By Amanda Swindle
Attending the 2014 NAMI National Convention was an experience of a lifetime. Not only was I recognized with the Young Adult Leader award, I was honored to be a presenter for a session regarding NAMI On Campus. Participating in the convention through these capacities was essential to both my professional and personal development. Being a presenter provided me with public speaking experience and allowed me to share my work with NAMI On Campus with attendees of the conference. I was also able to collaborate with other NAMI On Campus leaders and exchange ideas regarding ways to engage young people on colleges and universities across the nation.
Attending the convention provided numerous networking opportunities. For instance, I exchanged contact information with a young man who travels around the country speaking about his personal experience with mental illness and the obstacles he has overcome. After meeting this man at the convention, we exchanged emails in the weeks following to discuss the potential of having him speak at my university. It's small examples such as this which prove why it is essential to attend professional conferences and engage with professionals from around the country.
Although presenting during the conference session was an honor, the biggest honor throughout the convention was being presented with the Young Leader Award of 2014. Standing in front of more than 2,000 individuals and being recognized for your hard work and accomplishments is an experience I can hardly describe. It was incredibly humbling and I felt immensely blessed to have been a part of the convention in this manner.
It is extremely important for young people to participate in the annual NAMI National Convention because it provides opportunities for young adults that help further themselves personally and professionally. Attending different sessions, interacting with various professionals, and networking are essential opportunities for opening oneself up to the human services field. Attending the NAMI 2014 Convention was a wonderful experience and helped reaffirm why I am so passionate about advocating on behalf of mental health issues. I encourage all of you—even if you aren't a young adult, of course—to come to this year's NAMI National Convention in San Francisco.
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