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Engaging with Youth in Your Chapter
By Bret Steffen, Director of Education, EAA
April 2016 - The EAA chapter network has nearly 900 unique chapters, and that means nearly 900 ways to enjoy aviation. Some chapters are big, some small, many fly Young Eagles, build airplanes, and have fly-outs. All of the chapters are unique.
When I visit chapters, it always seems that those chapters that have the most diversity seem to be the healthiest. Chapters that are family-based are active, energetic, and great fun. In other words, chapters that participate in many types of activities are much more likely to attract and retain generations of members.
Recently EAA instituted a Youth Protection Policy. The policy obviously created some controversy, which I will not refer to here. (If you would like to learn more about the policy, visit the youth protection pages at eaa.org/youthprotection.) I do want to highlight for you that the new policy creates an enhanced ability for your chapter to engage with youth in many new ways you may not have had in the past.
The chapter resources page on the EAA website links to a variety of documents to get started. These are not detailed, step-by-step how-to activities, but are templates, because so much of what you can do depends on the interests and resources of your chapter. They do provide you with great guidance and things to consider as you create programming that works for you. From aviation day camps to youth building projects, there are many activities you can do with kids. Start off small, and see what develops. Hundreds of chapters already do!
I strongly encourage you to consider some sort of youth engagement activities in your chapter. The energy that kids can bring is fantastic and becomes infectious to your chapter members. Youth activities will bring fun and families into your chapter, and can really add to your membership if you can spark that aviation interest in moms and dads, too.
The best way to keep general aviation from fading away is to invite more people into it, and families today love to do things together. Let’s merge these young families with your EAA family and keep aviation healthy.
Visit our chapter resources page for more information.