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Youth@AmateurRadio.Fun: A Position for Youth, by Youth

10/16/2009

"How we can recruit younger people in Amateur Radio?" is a question that keeps many hams scratching their heads. Some think operating, some think technology, but a few have been thinking out of the box. Give them another element of ham radio, one they can't get on the gridiron or in the class room. Give them a position where they're responsible for listening, coordinating and organization with an age group that may range from 8 to 80. Give them a position called Youth Assistant Section Manager.

The idea of a Youth Assistant Section Manager (YASM) didn't start in Newington, but at the Section level. Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, created and filled the very first YASM position when he was Section Manager for Alabama; he now serves as the Director for the ARRL Southeastern Division. "I looked at Amateur Radio and saw that the youth in the hobby was often forgotten," Greg told me. "We needed a way to make those who have gotten into ham radio at a young age more visible."

Greg said that the title of Youth Assistant Section Manager generated a lot of interest, showing other hams that there are youth in the hobby. "Rebekah Williams, WG4Y, was the first YASM. What made it such a success was that she was not afraid to hold forums and lounges -- in general, make youth more visible," he said. Her success as YASM for Alabama made her the #1 pick when Greg became Southeastern Division Director in 2007 and created the Assistant Director for Youth Activities.

I asked Greg how long it took for the idea to spread to other sections. Surprisingly, he noted "It took a while, but after a few Youth forums and booths, people began taking note." He said that after a while, it became something that parents would bring their kids to hamfests and go straight to the Youth Lounge. Greg started getting many positive e-mails, thanking him for creating the position; however a few stood out: "I was contacted by the Georgia Section Manager who was interested in creating the position, and soon after that, Tennessee created a YASM position." Pretty soon, Texas had one and then it started branching out to Sections further away.

Hopefully, any Section Managers reading this are now asking themselves: "How come I haven't done that!" I should take a second to backtrack and shed some light on how Greg went about creating a sensation. "At first I envisioned them speaking at ARRL forums, and talking to Youth about Amateur Radio, but then Rebekah took it the extra mile and started holding a lot of activities are various events," Greg said. "The most important thing is to encourage them and give them help when needed, but let them do the work. You'll see that a lot more energy goes into it."

Many other Sections have gone ahead and created their own YASM position, each one fulfilling slightly different tasks. One of the YASMs that really stands out is Simon Boehme, KC8ZYD, of Michigan. Michigan has a rather active group of youth involved in several clubs, and Simon decided it'd be a good idea to get as many together as possible and brainstorm. He created the Michigan Youth Conference, which is a great event for pushing the involvement of youth in ham radio to a new level.

I encourage any Section Managers who may not already have a YASM position -- or may have an empty one -- to create and fill it. Giving youth a voice in a hobby dominated by an aging population is a huge attraction to any new or prospective hams. Part of the reason that the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have been so successful is it gives a younger generation the chance to experience leadership and responsibility, in conjunction with something fun. Ham radio may never rival the two or come close in numbers, but the same appeal can help us lower the average age of the active ham.

While we're on the topic of youth in Alabama, it should be noted that the Alabama Outstanding Young Ham of the Year (an award Rebekah, WG4Y, created) was awarded at the Hunstville Hamfest to Kaitlyn Cole, KS3P. Congratulations Kaitlyn!

North American QSO Party

I love QRP, ARES, digital modes and DX; however, the one facet of the hobby that I look forward to most is contesting. The North American QSO Party is one of my favorite contests for two reasons: 1 -- it happens six times a year, and 2 -- even I have a shot at winning from my "little pistol" station.

For the August CW leg of NAQP, I had a unique experience of hosting an M/2 operation from the campus of the University of Kansas. The K0KU station by itself is rather impressive; however for 12 hours on a Saturday -- after putting in a second radio and filling it with some world-class operators -- it was phenomenal.

Steve Lufcy, K0OU, Alex Tkatch, KU1CW, Marshall Toburen, AA0FO, and I descended upon the station on Saturday, August 2, to compete in the contest. Despite being severely handicapped on low bands (we were limited to 40 meters) due to bad coax cable, we still had a blast and racked up an impressive score for being handicapped the way we were.

For the August SSB leg, I operated from home. Another unique experience presented itself, and that was using the call sign of recently deceased Elmer and ham radio legend, Lee Bergren W0AR. The call sign remains in Lee's memory as the call of the Lee Bergren Memorial Society. W0AR was once heard in many pile-ups and contests, so we saw it fitting to keep it that way.

Early on in the contest, I was having very little success on the low bands with my Cushcraft R8, so I switched to 40 much too early in the day. But I ended up working a few stations, and once I found a frequency, I averaged about 10 an hour for 2 hours. Patience paid off, and as 40 opened early, I had prime real estate and very little QRM. But good things can't last, and as 40 faded, I resorted to search-and-pounce tactics, catching multipliers on 40 and 80 to boost the score.

Both contests were new and fun experiences, and I hope many of my readers both young and old were able to enjoy the same excitement as I did!

Shout Outs

See something out of the ordinary? Have a new young ham? New upgrade? Let me know! Send me an e-mail with a picture and a brief write-up so we can give young hams the credit they deserve for their service and achievements in ham radio.

Up-Coming Events

ARRL September VHF QSO Party: September 12-13, from 1800 UTC Saturday to 0300 UTC Monday. Exchange is grid-square locator (you can find this information on ARRL Web site). This is a great chance to get on the air and use your Technician privileges on 50 MHz and up!

Thanks for reading, 73 -- enjoy another month on the air!
Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM

Duncan P MacLachlan, KU0DM
ARRL Youth Editor



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