Please welcome today’s guest blogger, Annika Voulgaris, writing about her role with Young Members of Mensa New Zealand.
My name is Annika Voulgaris, I’m 25 and I am the Young Members co-ordinator and Gifted Children’s liaison for Mensa New Zealand. Young Members is a social and professional network and community for members of Mensa New Zealand under the age of 30. This group is designed to complement work being done by parents, teachers and gifted education providers around New Zealand. We want young, intelligent people to meet each other and form the connections and community that many Mensa members miss in the early years of their lives.
Our group started out of a little bit of necessity and a lot of initiative. When I joined Mensa in 2008, I was concerned there was not much available for Young Members like me and I did not really know anyone else my age. I saw the Young Members Co-ordinator position was vacant and asked our National Board if they were ok with me playing around with this. They were, and have been very supportive of the work we’ve done.
One major initial hurdle was that were only a few Young Members and we were spread all over New Zealand. To help break down this barrier, I set up a Facebook group called Young Members of Mensa New Zealand where young members could sign up, meet each other and post discussions and articles they find interesting. Because some people have concerns about publicly being a part of Mensa on Facebook, this group is secret and invite only, to protect members’ privacy. We arrange Young Members and Mensa “get togethers” on the page and use the invite system to let Young Members know what is going on around the country.
Parents of younger Young Members who are unable to have their own Facebook pages are very welcome in this group to enable their children to have access to what is happening online. We also have a public page so people can search for us on Facebook and get in touch with Young Members directly.
We started with members aged between 15 and 25, but requests from members to stay, and then requests from parents of younger members for them to join our group led us to expand it to all Mensa members under 30. Young Members of Mensa New Zealand currently has 111 total members with 91 members in the Facebook group, and plans on expanding. Many of our new Mensa members are coming from those under the age of 20 and we hope to continue this trend.
We actively promote Mensa in universities throughout New Zealand and we are working at getting more interaction with New Zealand schools. We have a good relationship with the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children, and hope to continue and strengthen this relationship.
One of the main reasons our group works so well is the age range of our members. Young Members provides a stable community supporting young people from primary to intermediate schools, through to college and university. The years between 18 and 30 are particularly important, when students leave home, school and take on the world alone. While maintaining their independence, Young Members provides a welcoming community of like-minds for members to discuss ideas, articles and reach out to other members when needed.
We have an amazing group of gifted young people here in New Zealand, and our group is now receiving attention from all around the world. Next month I will be doing a presentation on Young Members of Mensa New Zealand at the United States Mensa Annual Gathering in Fort Worth, Texas and at the European Mensa Annual Gathering in Bratislava, Slovakia as part of the Leadership Exchange Ambassador Programme. I will be talking about how Young Members groups are important to bridge the gap between gifted children’s groups and older Mensa groups, and helping young gifted people to meet each other and form lifelong friendships. I am blogging about my experiences at these events and my blog can be found at http://annikasleap2013.blogspot.co.nz/
Our next initiatives for young people in New Zealand are the Mensa Tertiary Scholarship and the Mensa Young Members further education program. We hope these initiatives will encourage gifted young people to reach out to Mensa, and will help our Young Members reach their potential.
Find other #NZGAW Blog Tour posts at ultranet.giftededucation.org.nz/WebSpace/874/.
You can contribute to gifted awareness by reading, writing or sharing posts. Please also consider talking to a parent, a teacher, a school board member or a principal about giftedness. If at all possible, write to your Member of Parliament.
Photo credit: Photo kindly supplied by Annika.