Convention Scholarship Program
The Obesity Action Coalition’s decision to take on the Your Weight Matters Convention to give our members an in-person, top-notch education experience is one of the greatest endeavors I have ever had the pleasure of being involved. It was a few days into my tenure on the National Board of Directors that I raised my hand at the offer of leading the Convention Planning Committee. Three years later, there is so much to celebrate, including the expansion of access to attending.
From the start of planning our first convention, YWM 2012, the reception of this meeting has been overwhelmingly positive. In attendance, we’ve had long-time and new OAC members; healthcare professionals, expert educators, and from all corners of the country (and this year internationally!) and all with different backgrounds. From those who treat obesity, are personally or have a love one affected by obesity, and even those who spend their days defending policy that will drive treatment of obesity options forward; they’ve all been part of our movement.
Our attendance has grown more than 25 percent each year and we expect record breaking numbers in September. But, we still face a challenge that many member meetings experience: there is a barrier attending due to cost. The education is not reaching everyone who needs and wants it. Due to financial constraints, those who often need it the most are those who are unable to attend. In that, I asked our National Board and OAC staff to consider expanding our reach and impact. So, we began what is now the OAC Scholarship Program. And, it didn’t take much convincing.
The OAC Scholarship Program is meant to make attending our in-person meeting a reality for any person who wants to learn more about their weight and health. The scholarship fund is primarily funded by the registrations from the Advocacy March to Washington. To participate is just $20 and will be the culmination of our YWM 2014.
The application process for the scholarships is meant to be accessible and a way to authentically express what the convention experience means to you (weighted at 15 percent of the application) and how you are personally affected with obesity (weighted at 35 percent of the application). While financial need is weighted at 50 percent of your application consideration; it is asked in a narrative form. There is no maximum income to apply. The reality is that income alone does not tell the whole story. Child care, aging parent care, healthcare, cost of living and size of family are just a few things that can dramatically shape a story for someone’s own wealth. The financial need question is meant to give you freedom in telling the review committee at George Washington University (GWU) the details that a box for monthly or annual income cannot tell. And for some members, an application may mean assistance for all parts of the associated costs, including: travel, registration fees, and hotel costs. For others, just getting the cost of registration or a flight can make the difference between “I wish I could” and “I’ll see you there.” That is what I’m hoping we increasingly make happen for individuals.
One non-negotiable for the Convention Planning Committee was that this process was fair and transparent. The OAC’s National Board, staff, and committee members do not have any involvement in the evaluation/decision process for awarding scholarships. The Obesity Research Team at the Milken Institute School for Public Health at the George Washington University will serve as the Convention Scholarship Review Committee and will handle reviewing and receiving all applications to ensure the most objective decision-making process.
The OAC has advised GWU to award no less than $7,500 in scholarships. Anyone is welcome to apply, including those who have already registered. Awards do not have a cash value and work on a reimbursement model for travel. Hotel and registrations, if applied for and granted, would be paid directly by the OAC. Here are some important dates if you are considering applying (and I hope you do):
Application and Review Deadlines:
- Deadline to Receive Completed Applications: Friday, July 25
- Application Review Period: July 28 – August 6
- Scholarships Announced/Awarded: No later than August 13
While this will be my final year (for now) as chair of the Convention Planning Committee, I am so excited to take on new projects with the OAC, including expanding this program and focusing on our membership’s diversity. It has been my privilege to lead alongside so many wonderful staff, fellow board members, and volunteers as chair.
I hope that you join us for the 3rd Annual Your Weight Matters National Convention, September 25-28 in Orlando, Fla. If you know someone who might be interested in attending and may be unable to afford it, please urge them to apply.
To submit an application online, please click here.
Obesity Action Coalition,
Attn: Convention Scholarship Program
4511 North Himes Ave. Suite 250
Tampa, FL 33614
For complete details, please click here.
I’ll see you in September,
About the Author:
Amber Huett-Garcia is an OAC National Board Member and gastric-banding patient. She is the Manager of Institute Operations with Teach For America where she spends year-round planning for their seven week teacher training program. Her experiences include state budgeting, legislative analysis, contract negotiations, and operations of large-scale events. She earned bachelor’s degree in political science and journalism from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Illinois-Springfield. She resides in Memphis with her husband Matthew.